Ethan Frome Review

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Hello everyone, 

If, like me, you are currently in the south of England you will be experiencing some very stormy weather! Now I think this is an excellent excuse for staying indoors cozied up with a good book. For me, one of those books is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton so I'm here today with a review for you. 

Ethan Frome is a struggling farmer in a small isolated hill town in America. He has been leading a life full of misfortune, trapped first by sickly parents then by a loveless marriage and he is beginning to wonder why any of it is worth doing at all. This is when his wife's cousin Mattie comes to stay, in name she is there to care for his wife Zenobia, but in reality she is there because she has nowhere else to go. Ethan falls in love with Mattie's vibrant optimism, her yearning for knowledge he can teach and her good humour. He starts to fantasise about what life would be like with Mattie by his side instead of Zenobia. Now, feelings like that don't stay secret for long and Zenobia decides to intervene with disastrous consequences for the whole family. 

Rating: 4 Stars 

Positives: Excellent writing and characterisation, very thought-provoking 

Negatives: Depressing as hell

For lovers of: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy 

I gave this book 4 stars simply because of how much it made me think. Normally a story has a clear villain and some people would argue Zenobia is that person, but I disagree. All the characters are at fault really. Zenobia is the un-loving hypochondriac wife who is nonetheless jealous of her husband showing attention to another woman and does her best to thwart his happiness. Ethan is the husband who despises his wife, neglects her and lusts after her younger and more attractive cousin. Mattie is at  fault for encouraging Ethan, knowing full well he is married and that leaving his wife would render her destitute. All I see in this book is desperation. I pitied all of the characters and their hopeless state. At one point I had growing respect for Ethan when he resolved to not leave his wife and do "the right thing", but then he attempts suicide with Mattie and ruins it all. Yes I understand their reasoning, but him alive with Mattie or dead with her leaves Zenobia in the same position. There is a very misplaced sense of romance to their actions, which I appreciate, but do not like! 

The writing of this story is very compelling and I will definitely pick up more Edith Wharton. I have heard her described as one of the true American realists and I think it is essential to read her work as a comparison to Thomas Hardy's very British realism. Ethan doesn't have the amiableness of the iconic Tess or Hester, but he is nonetheless a very believable character. 

I am hoping to move onto a more up-lifting book next, most likely some more Jane Austen. I think more than one book like this in a row would be bad for my morale! Mansfield Park feels like a suitable joyful novel :-) 

Have you read this book or other works by Edith Wharton? Let me know in the comments below :-) 


P.S. Follow my Facebook here

No comments :

Post a Comment

Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs