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The Custom of the Country

Ratings:
Length: 517 pages8 hours

Summary

First published in 1913, Edith Wharton’s “The Custom of the Country” tells the story of Undine Spragg, a girl from a Midwestern town with unquenchable social aspirations. Though Undine is narcissistic, pampered, and incredibly selfish, she is also a fascinating, vibrant, and beguiling heroine whose marital initiation into New York high society from its trade-wealthy fringes is only the beginning of her relentless plans. Undine is never satisfied with what she has and constantly hungers for more wealth, more prestige, and more luxury. Her search for these lofty goals takes her from New York to Europe and the apartments of the nouveau riche to ancient French estates. While Undine’s cleverness and single-mindedness ultimately gets her what she wants most, it comes at great cost to everyone else, such as her family, child, and many husbands. Through Undine’s restlessness and ambition, Wharton weaves an elaborate plot that renders a detailed depiction of upper class social behavior in the early twentieth century. By utilizing a character with inexorable greed in a novel of manners, Wharton explores the social customs of an emerging modern age and the changing role of women in society.

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