Today’s review comes to us courtesy of the Teen Adisory Group’s Carol.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome is a tragic story about a young man, Ethan, who is tormented by his love for his wife’s cousin. Trapped by the bonds of marriage, he spends every day of his life taking care of his sickly wife Zeena. Then Mattie, Zeena’s cousin, comes to live with them. Mattie’s parents had died, and with no income nor any relatives willing to support her, she arrives at Zeena and Ethan’s home as a housekeeper. To Ethan, Mattie is the only spark of joy in his dismal life; he longs to run away with her, but cannot because he fears public condemnation and his income is not enough to support Mattie and himself elsewhere. One day when Zeena is off to see a new doctor, the cat breaks Zeena’s special pickle dish that she had received as a wedding gift. When Zeena comes back, she blames Mattie, and decides that Mattie must go and a new hired girl must replace her. On Mattie’s last day, Ethan and Mattie decide to go coasting (sledding), and in an attempt to commit suicide, they deliberately crash into the big elm tree. However, they both survive. In the end, Zeena decides to take Mattie back, and there the three of them live, an unhappy trio in the town of Starkfield.
This short novel was absolutely beautiful. I usually despise romance books, but this one really seemed to touch my heart. I especially sympathized with the part when Ethan lies in his house at night, trapped in his own wretched life: “He looked out at the slope bathed with lustre, the silver-edged darkness of the woods, the spectral purple of the hills against the sky, and it seemed as though all the beauty of the night had been poured out to mock his wretchedness…” The descriptions of their cold, small town of Starkfield simply adds on to Ethan’s misery, and allows the reader to truly sympathize with him. If you’re looking for a heartfelt tragedy sprinkled with exquisite descriptions, Ethan Frome is the book!
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