Ethan Frome – Book Review

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:

And there were other sensations, less definable but more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy: the cold red of sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on sunlit snow. – From Ethan Frome, page 297

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.

Highly recommended.

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    • Anonymous on February 12, 2007 at 11:31

    Hmm. For me, the verdict is still out on Edith Wharton. I might have to give her a second chance. The only book I have read by her is The Buccaneer’s, which was incomplete at the time of her death. Maybe I should have started somewhere else! Have you ever read the Age of Innocence?

    • Anonymous on February 12, 2007 at 18:47

    Age of Innocence was the first book I read by this author. I wrote a very short “blurb” about it under the Winter Classics Challenge (you can find that challenge in my folder for “completed book challenges”). I liked it…but, I like this one better!

    • Anonymous on February 13, 2007 at 12:52

    I love all of Wharton’s works, particularly Age of Innocence, The Children and Custom of the Country.

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