Saturday, April 7, 2012

Many an opinion about this book

It's true what they say about the classics, you know. The first time you read a classic, you wonder if you'll read another contemporary novel again. The second time you read it, you find the work richer, more textured, discovering just a little bit more or what makes this novel timeless.

I feel that Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, which a lot of people consider her best work, is perfect for a book discussion. When I read it more than 15 years ago, I marveled at Wharton's beautiful prose and her keen ability to portray New York society. I've reread it in time for our book club's March discussion, and it turned out to be a more rewarding experience.

Yes, it's not the type of book that you would buy at a bookstore, unless you're a literature student. This is unfortunate, for the book raises a lot of interesting questions that would serve as fodder for a very lively book discussion.

Was Wharton writing a novel about Lily Bart, the heroine who seems to make one wrong decision after another? Or was she providing us a portrait of New York society at the turn of the century? Were Lily Bart's actions a product of her upbringing or were they a result of the circumstances thrown her way? And what about that ending, huh? Did she or didn't she?

As expected, I was fascinated to hear the thoughts of the members of the book club on Wharton's novel. Some couldn't stand Lily, other wanted to be her. Others who wouldn't touch a classic with a 10-foot pole ended up liking The House of Mirth. Some couldn't even finish it. There were several opinions about the ambivalent ending. I prefer the ending though. It gives me something to ponder.

So, dear reader, if you haven't read The House of Mirth yet, I suggest you go grab a copy. You're in for a delightful reading experience. For the meantime, let me share with you some pictures.

I facilitated a card game for the book swap.
I was inspired by the games of bridge that Lily Bart participated in.

I counted 24 participants! Woot woot! (3 members not in this picture.)
Twenty-four is quite manageable a number, I think,
as compared to the 30+ who showed up during last year's The Woman in Black discussion.

R designed these 6 bookmarks, with each showing 6 of the book's themes:
private, husband, gossip, downfall, lush, pretty.
(Photo courtesy of R)

I also gave away 4 bookplates to each participant.
R also designed these.

A good book club friend, Iya, helped me with book plate production.
She also packaged each set in ribbons and charms.


Stepford Mum said...

It took me a long time to read Edith Wharton. I mistakenly thought that an American writer couldn't write as well about social climbing at the turn of the century than a British one could. When I did read her, I stood corrected. The House of Mirth is now one of my favourite classics of all time, and Lily Bart my favorite heroine.

Peter S. said...

Thank you for attending the discussion, Stepford Mum!