This wonderful tale of perception, desire and despair is so much more than just a paltry romance. Wharton illustrates just how much of ourselves we project into what we see and believe about what goes on around us. I've posted and extra copy, I would never get rid of my last one!
I don't know why I waited so long to read this classic little gem of a novel--more like a long short story, actually, that manages so perfectly and movingly to capture a town, a person, a life in so few pages. It's written in Wharton's crisp and literate style, with the tragic story of Ethan Frome mirrored in the bleak New England winter landscape and stoic people.
This story takes place in the cold, bleak winter farmlands of Massachusetts. Ethan Frome, a poor farmer, has a hard life tending to his land, trying to make a meager living, and also taking care of his ungrateful, demanding, sickly wife, Zeena. When her cousin, Mattie, comes to help her, Ethan's life changes completely. He falls deeply in love with Mattie. This being the 1800's, he must endure the stifling conventions of that era's society also. There love for each other proves to be a fascinating story.
This was a very short and rather easy read. It was also quite depressing (but still worthwhile and enjoyable). It starts from the point of view of a narrator (who is only in the first and last chapters) who is new to town and needs a way to get a ride to the train station for work, ends up hiring a disfigured, sad man named Ethan Frome to take him. The narrator becomes intrigued with why Ethan is the way he is, why he seems a bit more educated and intellectually curious compared to others in the town, and eventually he puts Ethan's story together when he ends up having to stay at Ethan's house during a terrible snow storm. The rest of the book (except the last chapter) focuses on Ethan's past, told from a third person point of view. We learn that Ethan was not always disfigured, that he attended a little college before being called home after his father died to take care of his ailing mother. He then ends up marrying Zeena, who helped care for his mother and later becomes very "sickly" herself (implied that much of her "troubles" are hypochondriac in nature). Zeena's cousin, Mattie, is hired to take care of her, and Ethan finds himself dealing with his emotions as he falls for Mattie. Ethan is rather conflicted because he wants to leave Zeena to be with Mattie, but he struggles inside with feelings of loyalty and doesn't want Zeena to suffer as a result of him leaving her (despite the fact he borders on hating her at times due to her cruel nature towards Mattie). The book deals with Ethan's internal turmoil and what he ultimately decides to do. All-in-all, it was a very worthwhile read!
Read in one sitting. Wharton's writing and story-telling is superb here. Had me so deeply buried in the story that I was taken aback when the picture outside my window was one of green grass and swaying trees instead of the white frigid stillness of winter. Don't pass this one up just because it is most commonly seen on an English Lit class's syllabus. Great.
Edith Wharton's best known novel. Ethan Frome is a tragic figure. On the one hand, Ethan lives a dreary existence on his unproductive farm with his shrewish, hypochondriac, very difficult wife, Zeena. On the other hand, Ethan dreams of happiness in the form of Mattie who has become their servant. Zeena and Mattie are opposites of each other. Ethan is a passive, fearful man who never challenges his wife's demands. When he finally does take action, he becomes impulsive and leads to tragedy. Wharton's descriptions of a small town in New England are so well written they evoke the feel of that town so much so that they reflect the whole mood of the story and the interactions of Zeena and Ethan. This slim book really packs a punch. A must read.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a novella with excellent character development, smooth, descriptive language, and realistic dialogue. I was sympathetic towards the protagonist Ethan until the very end, when the "mashup" happened. Then my feelings towards him, his love interest Mattie, and his wife Zeena turned to pity. This story reminds me how much our society has changed, socially, in the last 150 years.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
Set against the bleak winter landscape of New England, Ethan Frome tells the story of a poor farmer, lonely and downtrodden, his wife Zeena, and her cousin, the enchanting Mattie Silver. In the playing out of this short novel's powerful and engrossing drama, Edith Wharton constructed her least characteristic and most celebrated book. In its unyielding and shocking pessimism, its bleak demonstration of tragic waste, it is a masterpiece of psychological and emotional realism. In her introduction the distinguished critic Elaine Showalter discusses the background to the novel's composition and the reasons for its enduring success.
Ethan Frome is a story with a tragic ending. It expresses the power of love and how far one will go for love. Even though Ethan is married, his love for Mattie Silver causes the two to partake in an unthinkable act. Edith Wharton uses this theme, illicit love to present "a drama of irresistible necessity." The emotion of Mattie and Ethan was very evident and could be felt by the reader. It's hard to believe that anything so classic could be such a page turner. This novel is recommended for anyone who wants to read a short, simple love story.
Of all the books I've read, I'd have to say that Ethan Frome is my favorite. I know, it's hard to pick a favorite, but Edith Wharton's characters in this book drag you through a whole range of emotions and her imagery and ability to "set the scene" is amazing. I find myself reading it every year, year after year around winter time, because her writing captures the season and its mood so well.
A farmer in turn-of-the-century New England struggles to survive and to make his farm successful. First he is tethered to the land by his helpless parents; then by his ailing wife. When Ethan's wife's alluring cousin comes to stay, she and Ethan become trapped in a hopelessly passionate love affair. Trapped by fear of public condemnation and the bonds of a loveless marriage, Ethan starts down a path which could eventually lead to tragedy for all involved.
I had originally wanted to read this book after seeing the movie with Liam Neeson. Mareena and I caught the last part of the movie and were shocked at how sad it was. I love a sad book and Mareena loves the classics. I give this book an A+!
Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeenie. But when Zeenie's vivacious cousin enters their household as a "hired girl", Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and the with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.
In one of American fiction's finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies. Different in both tone and theme from Wharton's other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and widely read novel.