Just when you think that it s safe to kiss someone you re not married to, just then, disaster lurks barely a sledge ride away Ethan Frome is remarkable, in probability wrongly, in my mind for its relentless bleakness This is an American novella, by an American author in which there is no escape The West is there, but the protagonist can t afford the journey This an impoverished landscape, the modest hero ploughs an infertile furrow An ungallant way to refer to a marriage, but there you go, in Ethan Frome marriage is duty, burdensome than most A best pickle dish is too precious to use and when broken is carried out with as much solemnity as a dead body, perhaps The consequences of sin are life long, while grace, let alone redemption, are entirely absent Then again perhaps it is natural if in a country there is an overwhelming belief in optimism, expansion, and the possibility of forever starting again that a contrasting voice emerges that says yes, that may well be the American dream, but this is the American reality.Very oddly Ethan Frome reminds me of The Great Gatsby and those boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past There some surface glitter covered over an essential immobility that here is plain and unvarnished This stands in contrast to relentless reinvention, a rootlessness that allows renewal, the kind of thing we see in Sister Carrie the woman from the back of beyond becoming a star of the New York stage This seems to be a dying society on the edges of buoyant country The narrator s opening remarks talk of the natives, like Frome, and the later emigrants Although the narrator seem to approve of the old blood, the implication of the story is that they are an evolutionary dead end Too tied down to achieve anything new The need to take a trip by horse drawn vehicle to the train station suggests this is a stagnating backwater, cut off from the energetic currants of the nineteenth century let alone those of the twentieth If the present does reach into the town it is only through the patent medicines that validates Zenobia Frome s status as being perpetually sick This work that Lisa Simpson was so pleased to gain a copy of to call her own is like a little piece of Thomas Hardy, transplanted to New England A corner of a foreign field that is for ever Wessex. Magnificent, spectacular I somehow always feel I must assign many types of superlatives to the magnificent spectacular Edith Wharton Definitely top ten writers of ALL TIME contender Her best is Age of Innocence, her not as much personally, alas is House of Mirth , but sandwiched between them is this tense novella about the restrictions of unconventional feeling it has the type of invigorating force that compels the reader to do his one job and do it good I adore this slim tome, admire Wharton for being absolutely angelic in her rare immense perfection. He Seemed A Part Of The Mute Melancholy Landscape, An Incarnation Of Its Frozen Woe, With All That Was Warm And Sentient In Him Fast Bound Below The Surface Ethan Frome Works His Unproductive Farm And Struggles To Maintain A Bearable Existence With His Difficult, Suspicious And Hypochondriac Wife, Zeena But When Zeena S Vivacious Cousin Enters Their Household As A Hired Girl , Ethan Finds Himself Obsessed With Her And With The Possibilities For Happiness She Comes To Represent In One Of American Fiction S Finest And Most Intense Narratives, Edith Wharton Moves This Ill Starred Trio Towards Their Tragic Destinies spoilers what spoilers i have changed my stance on the cover a initially, i thought that it was showing an altogether different type of activity, and then b when ariel called it a spoiler, i reinterpreted it to something else and was still wrong, and then c everything that may potentially be spoiled is pretty much spelled out in the first ten pages so is that a spoiler, or is that foreshadowing tomato, potatowhat is so excellent about this book is that it is not at all a depressing book while you are reading it it is an intensely hopeful book but then gutpunch the depressing bits happen offscreen, after all the meat of the story has been digested this metaphor is escaping me but in the lacuna between when the story ends and the nosy new kid narrator in town comes on the scene such a fantastic new england type character hi, i just moved in, tell me all your neighbor s secrets the tragic bits are in imagining what these characters went through between point a and point b so shivery horrible and that kind of story is right up my alley great description, great pacing simple story, but haunting and devastating longing and aftermath i love aftermath.i liked this much than summer, and i may read wharton based on the strength of this one hmmm who could i find to advise me come to my blog In the bleak setting of 1880 s Starkfield, appropriately named, Lenox, western Massachusetts where it always seems like perpetual winter, and its cold, dark, gloomy, ambiance, a poor, uneasy farmer, Ethan Frome, 28, is all alone, his mother has just died, the woman who took good care of her, Zenobia Zeena Pierce, is about to leave, though seven years junior to the lady, he purposes, she accepts gladly and the biggest mistake he believes, of his life, occurs Zeena, not a beauty, likes nursing sick people, the capable woman knows what to do, unlike the hapless Frome, but soon develops a strange illness herself, while idle, seeing many doctors, they tell her what she wants to hear, given some pills, advice and then off to another one The hypochondriac continues this ceaseless pattern, Ethan becomes quite disillusioned, after only a year of marriage, Zeena s, physicians prescribe that she get a maid, to help with the hard, tiresome housework, which is ludicrous, since her husband does most of itYet the struggling farmer, not the best around, has troubles of his own, a deteriorating, old house, that frequent blizzards, cause much damage to, a failing, lumber mill, also, and the new expenses he reluctantly agrees, though, Mattie Silver, Zeena s petite cousin arrives, with no close family left, she is healthy, cheerful, lively and yes, pretty, Mr Frome, a lonely man, falls in love, but naturally keeps it a deep secret, his sour, silent wife lives in another world and does not notice He begins to daydream, neglects his not prosperous farm and negligible mill, thinking about pleasant thoughts, their few walks and rides together bliss Does Mattie, not the best maid, either, rather a dreamer, like Ethan, love him too, the possibilities are endless, thinks he, can they dare run away together, to the western frontier, forget the people they abandoned and live only for themselves The triangle if it exists, will have winners and losers, but Ethan must find out quickly how Mattie feels, a new woman is coming to replace Miss Silver, at the insistence of the unpleasant Zeena, the crises looms, decisions have to be made now, the scared girl has no place to liveAn uncommonly captivating story of love, but not for all, the narrative can be difficult to digest responsibility, and propriety, in an age that demands this from everyone, scandals are not tolerated by society, all must know the rules, the few who brake them are ostracized in perpetuity Hey Mrs Kinetta, are you still inflicting all that horrible Ethan Frome damage on your students John Cusack, Grosse Pointe Blank If you re looking for a book with an ever increasing level of misery, this one is hard to beat Try this test the next time you re with a group of your friends just mention Ethan Frome out loud, and see how many of them groan audibly. Sparse prose is sexy Sexy And that s why I ve given it a special shelf on my page, called a buck and change.Guess what else sparse prose is Rare.That s why I have only seven books on there.Why Why are these precious books that fall under 200 pages so rare Because writers tend to overwrite everything.But not Edith Wharton, the queen of sparse prose And Ms Wharton, though she may appear stolid in her old black and white portraits, was one sexy lady.She manages in Ethan Frome to take one anti hero, one untamed shrew, and one manipulative maiden, and proves, in less than 100 pages, that winter, isolation and poverty do not discriminate.Wharton is never a sell out She gives you foreshadowing, symbolism and metaphors in just the right dosages, and she never wastes your time And when one red dish shatters into sharp pieces all over that never ending landscape of white you can not help but be bewildered at what an exceptional writer can do, especially in succinct and clever prose. Because Edith Wharton was born in 1862 and this novel was written in 1911, I ve always resisted reading the story fearing that it might contain florid prose and descriptions, which are often mind numbing for me Not only did I love it, I was reminded of one of my all time favorite novels, Stoner Ethan Frome was a mostly money strapped farmer in a miserable marriage while Stoner was raised by hard working farm people Both men were married to wives that were cold hearted, passive aggressive and cruel Zenobia Zeena Frome is a hypochondriac but also cunning and, she uses her obscure ailments to derail Ethan s love affair with her young and beautiful cousin, Mattie Silver Stoner s wife Edith, also demanding and manipulative, converted Stoner s den into her art studio in order to deliberately thwart the shared time with his beloved daughter, Grace while he worked and she did her homework.Ethan Frome and William Stoner were both wonderful characters in literature I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and found the story compelling But, I adored Stoner My rating only reflects that this one suffers by comparisonnot that it wasn t well written and absorbing. Because March is women s history month, I made it a point to only read women authors over the course of the month As the month winds to a close, I have visited many places and cultures, learning about historical events from a female perspective Yet, to observe women s history month, it would not be complete with paying homage to classic authors In this regard, I decided to read Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton s tragic novella Ethan Frome of Starkfield, Massachusetts has known much tragedy in his life First his father grew ill, leaving young Frome to move back to care for the family farm Then his mother grew sick, and a young relation named Zenobia Silver came to live with the Fromes to care for her Without much of a future besides the farm in his possession, Frome falls for Zenobia, and they marry Yet, Zenobia is not a country girl, and Frome hopes to sell the farm so that he can move his wife into town Tragedy strikes again as now Zenobia grows ill Frome is unable to sell the farm and is isolated in the country Zenobia a relations suggest that a young cousin Mattie Silver come and care for her in the manner that Zenobia had cared for Frome s mother While Zenobia is ailing and supposedly on her deathbed, Frome starts showing feelings toward Mattie What ensues for the rest of the novella is his conflicted feelings toward both women, as he considers his future Wharton paints a picture of a grim reality for Frome That the story occurs in winter in a town named Starkfield is no coincidence Her witticism as she debates whether Frome should honor his wife s feelings or leave her and elope with Mattie are uncanny Even though Starkfield appears as a depressing town to life in, Wharton s use of language and plot development had me reading to discover the denouement of Frome s sad tale The fact that she included her usual twist toward the end enhanced the story I have only discovered Edith Wharton over this March s women s history month reads, but I find it remarkable that her writing can go from comedy in one story to tragedy in another and still contain a high level of wit She wrote at a time when the novel was dominated by the middle class, and was one of few upper crust society women to write That she entered a male profession and eventually won a Pulitzer for her writing, makes her career all the impressive Although Ethan Frome is a tragedy, I found the story interesting enough to hold my attention, especially as Wharton inserted her mark at the end A four star read, I look to read of Wharton s work in the future. Spoilers follow This is a romantic tragedy that culminates in a sledding accident I will just say a few brief words about that First, there is probably a reason that sledding accidents don t figure prominently in tragedies Shakespeare wrote like 13 tragedies and to the best of my knowledge none featured a sledding accident I have not read Titus Andronicus, so I can t be sure If Shakespeare doesn t need to include a sled wreck, then neither do you.I will also say that I found Ethan and Mattie s attempted double suicide by sledding a little hard to take seriously I mean, there are probably dozens of reasons that serious people don t rank sled tree collisions on their Top 5 List of preferred suicide methods, but certainly the fact that adult doubles sledding is inherently ridiculous is one Another that springs to mind is the unreliability of trying to kill yourself by sledding into a tree Ethan ends up breaking his legs and paralyzing Mattie, which is pretty much the best you can realistically hope to do if you sled into a tree Really, I find it remarkable that Edith Wharton s reputation survived Ethan Frome and his sled antics It makes me want to read House of Mirth, because it must be REALLY REALLY good.As a side note, this is exactly the kind of ridiculous melodramatic bullshit I always had to read in high school Teachers getting all worked up about the symbolism of the New England winter and failing to understand why 16 year olds don t respond to the tragedy of star crossed lovers doubling each other into a tree on a sled Please.