Edith Wharton is at her narrative best in this novel about a young man who falls in love until fate tragically intervenes. Wharton deftly constructs the story by starting a generation after the climax, then weaves her way back to the beginning to unravel the mystery. In doing so, she creates the tension in the novel which keeps the reader obsessively turning the pages.
Mattie Silver, a young beauty, serves as a sharp contrast to Ethan’s wife, Zeena – a bitter, sickly woman who is perhaps more aware of Ethan’s feelings than he is of his own. It is no wonder that the reader will find herself hoping for happiness between Ethan and Mattie who seem to be soulmates:
Wharton’s firm grasp of setting, her understanding of human vulnerability, and her sense of drama all combine to make Ethan Frome a compelling must read.