Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ethan Frome; Edith Wharton


Title: Ethan Frome
Author: Edith Wharton
Publication Year: 1911 / 2008 (eBook)
Edition: EBook-Kindle
Source: Purchase
Date Completed: 2/16/2011
Setting: New England
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Recommend: Yes, but (depressing story)

Ethan Frome is a tragic story which takes place in 19th century New England. The setting for the novel is a town called Starkfield, a name which says it all.  Starkfield is a cold, isolated, farm town where Ethan Frome has lived all of his life. Ethan is a quiet and secretive man who was injured in an accident some 25 years earlier.  He married an older woman, actually a cousin, named Zeena who had cared for his mother prior to her death. For Ethan, the marriage was not based on love, but more out of his fear of being alone.

Ethan would have liked to move away from Starkfield, but Zeena would not hear of it. She turns out to be a domineering woman ,a sickly woman or perhaps a hypochondriac that is used to her advantage. Yet her whiny ways still manage to have a powerful hold on Ethan. Before long Zeena's cousin, 20-something Mattie Silver, joins the Frome household to help out and to care for Zeena.  Mattie is the total opposite of Zeena. Her personality is cheery, and she seems to bring a little joy into Ethan's bleak existence. He looks forward to seeing her, having his dinner with her, and it is obvious that Ethan is attracted to Mattie.  Even though nothing romantic occur, Ethan becomes jealous when Mattie ha seven themost innocent interactions with other men. When Zeena decides that Mattie must leave their home, Ethan cannot bear to see this happen.

Throughout this very short novel, under 140 pages ,the reader gets the sense that Ethan's mysterious accident when he was in his 20's will not be the only tragedy that will occur in this story. Doom and gloom are almost a constant presence. Without giving away significant details, for those who have not read the book, I'll just say that I was disappointed by Ethan, and I detested Zeena.  I realize that this story was set in the 19th century, but I just could not imagine living day in and day out in a hopeless, loveless marriage, even if that was what many people in that situation did back then.

My overall impression was that the writing was very good in this novel, but I did not love the story. I was glad I read it, but was also glad that it wasn't a longer story. It was just too depressing for me.

18 comments:

  1. This was such a tragic love story! I read the book in high school (and have been meaning to reread it as an adult!) but found the movie with Liam Neeson (?) amazing (and depressing)

    Thanks for sharing! And reminding me once again I need to reread this!

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  2. My sister had to read this in high school and hated it - I remember my mom fighting with her to finish it. Since then, I've never felt compelled to pick it up.

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  3. This sounds like one of those very interesting books but I think I need something a little more upbeat. Glad I read your referral first. Thanks so much.

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  4. I liked Ethan and wanted things to work our for him but Z and M drove me batty. Z was nasty but I could sort of see how a person could be that way living that kind of life. M was such a ditz that I couldn't feel good about her and Ethan either.

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  5. I actually really enjoyed this story (not sure if it's the right word to use for this one) - the misery of it all was so terribly tragic and then the setting of the cold New England weather during this time sealed it all in. It's probably, though, not the most fun book to read during the wintertime :)

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  6. I think a lot of people have that impression of Wharton- that she was a great writer, but not very happy stories. I've not read her, but I think I'd like to. At least this one is a short introductory story by her, if I feel the need :-)

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  7. Yes, it's definitely bleak, tragic, and depressing... but I seem to be drawn to it anyway. You might want to read Wharton's Summer. She referred to it as 'Hot Ethan'.

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  8. I was just talking to my husband about Wharton today, about how she's a great writers but OMG are her books ever downers. I read this in high school and really disliked it. Oh well!

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  9. I read this a few years ago, and wasn't totally shocked by the ending because my husband told me there was a twist coming up. I also rather disliked it when I read it, but as the years have passed, it finally started to grow on me and I was able to appreciate what Wharton really did with the story. You are right when you say that it's depressing though!

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  10. Wharton doesn't do "happily ever after" but even by her standards this one is a downer!

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  11. I actually liked this one, although I'm sure the fact that it was short had a lot to do with that!

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  12. I've been wondering about this book but have yet to pick it up. I appreciate your great review, Diane. I do like a sad story now and then, but I'm not sure now is the time. :-)

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  13. Urgh I had to read this book for one of my college classes. Did not care for it.

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  14. Urgh I had to read this book for a college class. Did not care for it.

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  15. I know the book is depressing but it's one of my favorite books. I loved Wharton's writing in this novel.

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  16. I enjoyed The House of Mirth, but perhaps I'll skip this one. Although I do tend to like stories of unhappy marriages for some reason.

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  17. I agree with you. The writing was lovely, but the story was just so tragic. Thankfully I was forced to give Wharton another chance during a class, and I ended up liking Age of Innocence much better!

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  18. This is the only Wharton I have read, but one of my best-book-friends lists her as a big favorite, to the point to exclaiming that she is mad that EW died without writing MORE books!

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