The Custom of the Country
Publication Date: January 2009
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It follows the career of Undine Spragg, recently arrived in New York from the Midwest and determined to conquer high society. Glamorous, selfish, mercenary and manipulative, her principal assets are her striking beauty, her tenacity, and her father's money. With her sights set on an advantageous marriage, Undine pursues her schemes in a world of shifting values, where triumph is swiftly followed by disillusion.
Wharton was recreating an environment she knew intimately, and Undine's education for social success is chronicled in meticulous detail. The novel superbly captures the world of post-Civil War America, as ruthless in its social ambitions as in its business and politics.
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Novels of manners never get old. Any quick flip through one of today's celebrity magazines will prove that. From social climbers to spouse grabbers, century to century, nothing changes. Author Helen Simonson offers three novels for going beyond Jane Austen's gossip. More at NPR.org
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