FALLING FROM GRACE
Down The Hall Book Club reads The House Of Mirth by Edith Wharton > NOVEMBER 17
Lily is a socially adept, intelligent and attractive young woman but her dependence on high society is her Achilles heel. Fashioned for a life of luxury and ease, she conducts herself as if she is entitled to such an existence, despite being unable to afford it, and she scorns those who lead alternative lifestyles. She must marry to secure a palatable future and, in the end, it is her failure to put her desires and scruples aside in pursuit of that essential, prudent match that both sets her apart and seals her fate.
Is Lily Bart a victim of circumstance or an agent of her own destruction? Edith Wharton's acutely observed novel poses this question as it follows Lily's tragic path through the country houses, card tables and drawing rooms of New York's beau monde at the turn of the 20th century.
Wharton is mercilessly frank as she chronicles Lily's fall from grace, contrasting psychological insights with descriptions of external effects. Her heroine sinks in stages – failing to snare Percy Gryce or Sim Rosedale as a husband, gambling away large sums of money, being accused of having an affair with a friend's husband, losing her inheritance – until she is reduced to working in a milliner's, her reputation tarnished.
Other characters in the novel operate within the parameters of their class, sex and wealth. Even the way they break society's rules seem to follow the rules. But Lily can neither accept the yoke of conventional behaviour nor shrug it off and she flounders in the space between.
Wharton shows us exactly how women like Lily could be smothered by the upper reaches of society, where individual tragedies are easily subsumed by the current of other people lives. The novel was serialised in Scribner's Magazine in 1905 and aspects of it now seem old fashioned but its depiction of social mores and their influence gives it universal resonance.
The November 2014 DTHBC selection is The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.
Down The Hall Book Club is a group for reading fiction by women and non-binary identifying writers. We meet the third Monday of every month at Type Queen West. The book club is free to attend and open to all.
DOWN THE HALL BOOK CLUB MEETING
Type Books, 883 Queen Street West
Monday November 17, 2014 > 7:00pm-9:30pm
bring your own snacks!