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The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

By Pamelascott

Edith Wharton's satiric anatomy of American society in the first decade of the twentieth century appeared in 1913; it both appalled and fascinated its first reviewers, and established her as a major novelist. The Saturday Review wrote that she had "assembled as many detestable people as it is possible to pack between the covers of a six-hundred page novel," but concluded that the book was "brilliantly written," and "should be read as a parable."

It follows the career of Undine Spragg, recently arrived in New York from the Midwest and determined to conquer high society. Glamorous, selfish, mercenary and manipulative, her principal assets are her striking beauty, her tenacity, and her father's money. With her sights set on an advantageous marriage, Undine pursues her schemes in a world of shifting values, where triumph is swiftly followed by disillusion.

Wharton was recreating an environment she knew intimately, and Undine's education for social success is chronicled in meticulous detail. The novel superbly captures the world of post-Civil War America, as ruthless in its social ambitions as in its business and politics.


['UDINE SPRAGG - how can you?' her mother wailed, raising a prematurely-wrinkled hand heavy with rings to defend the note which a languid bell-boy had just brought in]


(Oxford University Press, 15 January 2009, first published 1913, paperback, 416 pages, bought from @AmazonUK, set text for @OpenUniversity course starting October 2019)



I get this is a classic novel. I get that people; a lot of people love it. I get it's considered as one of Wharton's greatest books. Unfortunately, it did nothing for me. I rarely read classic literature. It's not to my taste and I tend to find it dull. This book is exactly what I expected, dull, long-winded and insanely boring. I found it a real slog to get through. I was bored to tears so much I didn't completely take in what was happening. I need to read the book for an Open University Literature Course or it would never have crossed my radar. There are a few classics in the course so I've decided to leave them until I absolutely need to read them.

Custom Country Edith Wharton

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