I have a head cold. Not a terrible one, but still, enough to make me want to sit and rest a lot these last couple of days. Cowboy had today off from work, and he built us a lovely fire this afternoon. I made everyone hot chocolate (mine in one of my favorite mugs from The Ring and the Lion -- it says "Forth now, and fear no darkness" in Elvish) and settled down with a book I've been meaning to read for over a year: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.
Way back when I started the Women's Classic Literature Event last December, I said that Edith Wharton was the author I was most excited to read for the event. Well, I've finally managed to read a book by her, my very last for the event.
I did not love this book. It's not a book one loves, I think. It's a book one reads and ponders and learns from, a hard look at hard people living a hard life. And yet, not a bitter book, somehow. Tragic, sad, and poignant, but not bitter, which is astonishing to me.
Ethan Frome ekes out a bare living for himself and his ailing wife from their Massachusetts farm and mill. He married his wife Zenobia out of duty and gratitude for the way she nursed his mother before she died. Zenobia then turned into an invalid herself, the kind that delights in her many ailments and the importance it gives her. The sort of character I want to slap. Ethan trudges on through life until his wife's poor relation, Mattie, comes to stay and help. Ethan comes to care for Mattie, and she for him, but they both come to realize they can never be together. They make a desperate bid for freedom, tragedy strikes, and their lives are ruined forever. All this told with a kind of emotionless detachment that never judges them or their behavior, but simply presents it as a story to experience and perhaps learn from.
While I didn't enjoy this book so much as find it interesting, I do want to read more of Wharton's novels! I could probably say more intelligent things about it if I wasn't doped up on Advil Cold & Sinus, but I want to write about this while it's fresh in my head, so I'll just leave it at that.
Particularly Good Bits:
He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing unfriendly in his silence (p. 14).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. There's no cussing, no violence, no adult situations. A bit of kissing between unmarried people, but nothing lurid.
This has been my twentieth book read and reviewed for the Women's Classic Literature Event, and my fifty-second for the Classics Club.