MOTIVATION for READING: I had not yet read any Edith Wharton. Just hadn’t gotten to her yet. Awhile back on one of the lists/memes where people highlight books that impacted in some way, I saw Ethan Frome and didn’t recognize the title. I believe it was Lisa of Books on the Brain (yes, found the post: a Sticky Books meme from a year ago.) Anyway, I got pulled to purchase this on an excursion to Borders; I was seduced by the cover.
Before anyone protests that I have in the past stated that I *NEVER* buy books for the cover, tis true. I have said that and I rarely do buy books for a pretty cover. But this one is so colorful and metallic and of cool paper. It FEELS good and it has those bookmark flap things that I find really cool.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This is a mystery about what possibly could have happened in poor Ethan’s past to make him such a sad withered old man. It’s a morality tale about dreams and happiness and these being totally denied. It’s about life in brutally cold New England way back in the day.
Now that I reflect, I’m thinking this could also be counted for the Women Unbound Challenge – what happens to a poor girl whose father has come to ruination. What choices does she have? In that regard, not much has changed to describe the feelings of being trapped by a lack of cash… And THAT is not necessarily gender-specific. But what an interesting study in hypochondria and any/all ailments women suffered but never got specific about.
What choices does poor Ethan Frome have? The silly idiot. For marrying that woman because he felt desperate and she could be his way to push off loneliness. And he thought he was rescuing her. Guffaw!
The suffocation of a life with no means of escape. The grasping at tiny sparks of joy and happiness, the SCRAPs of a dream of a vibrant life! oh, the suffering.
Honestly? I don’t know why they all didn’t drink poison and end it all decades before.
WHAT’s GOOD: I thought the writing spot on. Spare, cold and yet vivid. There is FEELING in this book; it’s an uneasiness and just barely noticeable unpleasantness. Besides the damn cold and the back-breaking chores and the hard scrabble for a dollar.
and TENSION*! tremulous, pit-in-the-stomach (gobnabbit, just kiss her already! You haven’t done anything wrong except WANT A BETTER LIFE! Except, unless, you count ‘thinking’ about sinning the same or worse as the sinning and I’m not here to get all technical about sin or anything… It’s not (thank you!) MY morality tale – what a whopper this is, though, even as I wonder what I was supposed to learn besides be careful who you marry.)
WHAT’s NOT so GOOD: (with ME, not the book.) OK, so I wish I had gone into this with a wee bit more preparation. I noticed stuff like the red scarf but missed the red color of the pickle dish. Sure, I recognized the weight of that darn important pickle dish but realized I wasn’t paying attention like I should. So I stopped half-way through and read this online article on Ethan Frome’s Symbolism, Imagery and Allegory. I was much better prepared for the end of the book and no, I didn’t cry. I was amused. (I also read a hilarious snarky review on goodreads that had me laughing which also relieved my being overly emotional about it all.)
I’m very glad I read this. Now I know what it’s all about. Sometimes that’s wonderful regardless of liking or enjoying or not.
* I read the Introduction AFTER writing this post. Written by Elizabeth Ammons: “stylistic elegance”, “perfectly calibrated mood of impending doom”. LOVE all the bio on EW – what a woman! Must. Read. More.