The Custom of the Country (Oxford World's Classics)

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9780192840615: The Custom of the Country (Oxford World's Classics)

Edith Wharton's satiric anatomy of American society in the first decade of the twentieth century appeared in 1913; it both appalled and fascinated its first reviewers, and established her as a major novelist. The Saturday Review wrote that she had "assembled as many detestable people as it is possible to pack between the covers of a six-hundred page novel," but concluded that the book was "brilliantly written," and "should be read as a parable."
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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First published in 1913 and regarded by many critics as her most substantial novel, The Custom of the Country is Edith Wharton's powerful saga about the beautiful, ruthless Undine Spragg. A woman of extraordinary ambition and exuberant vitality, Undine is consigned by virtue of her sex to the shadow world of the drawing room and boudoir. Marriage remains the one institution through which she can exercise her will as she entrances man after man, marrying one after the other with protean facility and almost monstrous avidity. A novel that ranges from New York to Paris, from Apex City, Kansas, to Reno, Nevada, The Custom of the Country stands as a dark satire of American business, society, and the nouveaux riches, and as Edith Wharton's contribution to the tradition of the American epic.

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