By Edith Wharton
(Scribner, Paperback, 9780684839646, 320pp.)
Publication Date: December 9, 1997
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
Out of print for several decades, here is Edith Wharton's superb satirical novel of the Jazz Age, a critically praised best-seller when it was first published in 1927. Sex, drugs, work, money, infatuation with the occult and spiritual healing -- these are the remarkably modern themes that animate Twilight Sleep. The extended family of Mrs. Manford is determined to escape the pain, boredom and emptiness of life through whatever form of "twilight sleep" they can devise or procure. And though the characters and their actions may seem more in keeping with today's society, this is still a classic Wharton tale of the upper crust and its undoing -- wittily, masterfully told.
America's most famous woman of letters, and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, Edith Wharton was born into one of the last "leisured class" families in New York City, as she put it, in 1862. Educated privately, she was married to Edward Wharton in 1885, and for the next few years they spent their time in the high society of Newport, Rhode Island, then Lenox, Massachusetts, and Europe. It was in Europe that Wharton first met Henry James, who was to have a profound and lasting influence on her life and work. Wharton's first published book was a work of nonfiction in collaboration with Ogden Codman, The Decoration of Houses (1897), but from early on, her marriage had been a source of distress, and she was advised by her doctor to write fiction to relieve her nervous tension. Wharton's first short stories appeared in Scribner's Magazine, and although she published several volumes of fiction around the turn of the century, including The Greater Inclination (1899), The Touchstone (1900), Crucial Instances (1901), The Valley of Decision (1902), Sanctuary (1903), and The Descent of Man and Other Stories (1904), it was not until the publication of the bestselling The House of Mirth in 1905 that she was recognized as one of the most important novelists of her time for her keen social insight and subtle sense of satire. In 1906 Wharton visited Paris, which inspired Madame de Treymes (1907), and made her home there in 1907, finally divorcing her husband in 1912. The years before the outbreak of World War I represent the core of her artistic achievement with the publication of Ethan Frome in 1911, The Reef in 1912, and The Custom of the Country in 1913. During the war she remained in France organizing relief for Belgian refugees, for which she was later awarded the Legion of Honor. She also wrote two novels about the war, The Marne (1918) and A Son at the Front (1923), and although living in France she continued to write about New England and the Newport society she knew so well and described in Summer (1917), the companion to Ethan Frome, and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Old New York (1924), The Mother's Recompense (1925), The Writing of Fiction (1925), The Children (1928), Hudson River Bracketed (1929), and her autobiography, A Backward Glance (1934). She died in France in 1937.
New York Evening Post
A brilliant and penetrating study of life in the upper social circles of New York...its people all fully and sharply characterized, its story managed with the most praiseworthy dexterity, and the whole seasoned with the acid of Mrs. Wharton's keen satire.
Gore Vidal There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as "major" -- and Edith Wharton is one.