ATTENTION * LIGHT SPOILER
I didn’t know she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Price. I had a vague idea that her books were depressing. Karen and Linda had read it and liked it, and though not always I want to know if a book ends well or not, knowing this story has a happy ending made all the difference to me.
It’s like a Great Gatsby negative (or should I say the positive). It’s set in the 1920’s, that period where the old world overlapped with the modern one. It’s striking to me to see some people floating there, in between the noble and high class, and not fully into the blue collar or working class.
The nobles and aristocracy are the ones in the papers, they live off their rents, and are patrons, artists, or related to the sciences and arts, while the working class has no time nor means for that, and have to work for a living as servants, nurses or tutors, in factories or by the fields, mines, or coast.
Nick and Susy, the main couple, are part of this in between social class. I thought they were sort of aristocrats or rich people “groupies”, or “lice”, because they traveled attached to them, they lived from favors (rich people crumbs). But that comes with a moral price.
I won’t spoil the book for you, because, if you are not Wharton fans, probably this book will be a nice one to read (good ending, and nicely set moral dilemma, with valuable wisdom and very astute observations of people and behavior).
A few quotes:
All this would formerly have increased Susy’s contempt; now she found herself liking the Hickses most for their failings. She was touched by their simple good faith, their isolation in the midst of all their queer apostles and parasites, their way of drifting about an alien and indifferent world in a compactly clinging group of which Eldorada Tooker, the doctor and the two secretaries formed the outer fringe, and by their view of themselves as a kind of collective re-incarnation of some past state of princely culture, symbolised for Mrs. Hicks in what she called “the court of the Reinassance.”
This quote reminded me of My Brilliant Career:
Oh, her hateful useless love of beauty…the curse it had always been to her, the blessing it might have been if only she had had the material means to gratify and to express it! And instead, it only gave her a morbid loathing of that hideous hotel bedroom drowned in yellow rain-light, of the smell of soot and cabbage through the window, the blistered wall-paper, the dusty wax bouquets under glass globes, and the electric lighting so contrived that as you turned on the feeble globe hanging from the middle of the ceiling the feebler one beside the bed went out!
This one was beautiful:
Then she remembered that Nick, during their last talk together, had seemed as inaccessible, and wondered if, when human souls try to get too near each other, they do not inevitably become mere blurs to each other’s vision.
Full of wisdom:
Will-power, he saw, was not a thing one could suddenly decree oneself to possess. It must be built up imperceptibly and laboriously out of a succession of small efforts to meet definite objects, out of the facing of daily difficulties instead of cleverly eluding them, or shifting their burden on others.