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The House of Mirth - Half a Review, You'll See Why

Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth boasts a vividly developed main character, brilliant descriptions of surroundings, and the author's signature slyly ironic prose. Wharton's 1905 novel follows pretty protagonist Lily Bart, now 29 (gasp!) and running out of time to snare a rich husband. Lily is orphaned and living with her aunt, but, as a true society femme, she's racked up tailor bills and gambling debts. (Who knew that bridge was so dangerous!) A lot of the story follows Lily's musings about her dull circle of friends and how she's so much smarter and artsier than they are and she should totally become a wealthy man's wife so she can be radiantly beautiful and throw the best parties. I'm making it sound vapid, but it's not, it's really good and delves into themes such as society and freedom and obligations and womanity and beauty and honor and all that good stuff.

The House of Mirth comes more than a dozen years before the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Innocence, and the growth of Wharton's narrative skill is evident when you read the latter. There were times when I felt like I had to slog through a description of a bloody garden in The House of Mirth, whereas The Age of Innocence was like consuming a strawberry-banana Greek yogurt smoothie -- it goes down easy, with just a hint of sourness!

So I reach the part in the book where some ho-bag has scared away Lily's most promising (yet boring) prospect, and this progressive dude Selden Lawrence is all smoochy-facing Lily and was gonna have dinner with her, and then this d-bag tricks Lily into going to his house where they're alone together (except for the servants, who don't count, obviously). She handles it well but Selden sees her leaving the d-bag's house and is all betrayed and flees the country to go on a cruise, in the process standing her up for dinner, and she's a wreck, and then the ho-bag from before is all like, "We're going sailing, wanna come?"

At this point, I had a series of brain farts that went like this: "Lily Bart is supposed to be super pretty, I bet there's a film version, I wonder who they picked to play her?" So I go to Google and I type, "lily bart," and images of Gillian Anderson in period costume show up. I was like, "SCULLY? No." And then I see Eric Stoltz and I'm like, "Yay!" Then my traitor eyes wander down the rest of the search results and GOOGLE SPOILED THE ENDING OF THE BOOK FOR ME. DAMMIT, GOOGLE.

Now I understand why Fiancé gets really mad and yells at me when I try to spoil a movie ending for him. I thought I was doing a good thing, but I was wrong. I WAS SO WRONG! I WAS FRACTALLY WRONG! I WAS WRONG ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE SCALE OF RESOLUTION! Wah.

If you're so inclined, go ahead and read The House of Mirth. It's a strong work. Meanwhile, I shall slink off with my tail between my legs and sulkily watch the film version. I hope it's better than The Age of Innocence adaptation, where I kept thinking of Winona Ryder as Mina Harker and expecting Gary Oldman to show up in an opera cape and Michelle Pfeifer to bare her vampire fangs. Well, Bram Stoker's Dracula came out the year before, that's my excuse.

Gasp! New movie idea: The Age of Innocence and Vampires! Hollywood, just say the word and the script is yours!

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