Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Ethan Frome

An oldie but a goodie. This one and was laying around the house practically begging to be read and being more novelette than book was quickly devoured.  Written by Edith Wharton and published in 1911, it is a dark unsentimental story almost Gothic in style and set in the snow covered hills of New England.  Here, one cold winter, the narrator comes across the protagonist, the quiet, unassuming and partially crippled, Ethan Frome.  Despite pressing the townsfolk about his past, they are generally tight-lipped about what brought the middle-aged Frome to this state, other than he has endured hardship and some sort of terrible accident in his youth.

The narrator, a visitor on a work assignment, needs a daily taxi (horse and carriage) to the next village and hires Frome,  gradually befriending him.  One night, during a bad snowstorm, Frome invites the narrator into his home and there inside are two older and worn women.  From this point on, the tale switches to the third person and the details of Frome's demise and present state are revealed.  Let's just say he had women (plural) problems.   And he was weak willed.  A poor combination, exacerbated by being housebound in a long Massachusetts winter...

Edith Wharton went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1920 for The Age of Innocence.  Based on her own chequered marital history, there may well be some basis for fact in Ethan Frome.

As mentioned, Ethan Frome is a quick read but a fine book and worth seeking out.

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