"The House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton (1905)

house of mirth

Short stories, manuals of interior design, and reports from French sectors of the Western Front – these are just some of the genres in which Edith Wharton recorded the dramatic changes affecting American and European societies in the first decades of the twentieth century. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence, but less than a century on, The New Yorker has declared that “nobody likes Edith Wharton”. Are her stunning achievements in fiction still relevant to us today?

This term, the RAI Book Club will explore her first published novel from 1905, The House of Mirth. Set in New York at the turn of the century, it traces the well-born Lily Bart's slow and painful descent from high society. Reflecting her dear friend Henry James's advice to write what she knew, it is an accessible introduction to Wharton’s fiction, life and manifold interests. Suggestions for future books are encouraged.

Discussion will be led by RAI researchers Daniel Abdalla (English, Wadham College) and Dr Sonia Tycko (History, St Peter’s College).

This event is open to the public.
Drinks and snacks provided.

One good heart-break will furnish the poet with many songs, and the novelist with a considerable number of novels. But they must have hearts that can break.

—Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction