When I was in college, I bought the book The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton from the bookstore. I’m not really sure why, but I had read Ethan Frome by the same author and this one was about rich people problems, so I thought I’d give it a go. Uhhhh should I be super embarrassed to say that it took me FOUR YEARS to finish it? Because it did. Four years. Four. Yeah. I just had a really hard time getting into it, and because it was written around the turn of the century, it took me a little bit longer to read and comprehend passages, and I would just start losing steam after reading a few chapters. So I’d read about 50 pages, read a few other books, come back to it, and then repeat the process over again. In the end I liked the story, but it just took forever for me to get to the end of it.
Without really knowing what it was about, I picked out the book A Wife of Noble Character from the library because I thought the cover looked kinda cool. And wouldn’t you know it- it’s a modern story that is loosely based on The House of Mirth!! Here’s the synopsis from the inside cover:
“Thirty-year-old Vivienne Cally is wealthy in name only. Orphaned as a child and raised by a cold but regal aunt, Vivienne was taught to rely on her beauty and Texas tradition, and is expected to marry a wealthy and respectable man who will honor the Cally name. Friends with Houston’s most prominent families, she’s a beloved fixture at social events, and suffers no shortage of access to the city’s most eligible bachelors. Preston Duffin has known Vivienne and her set since childhood, though he’s never shared their social aspirations or status. About to graduate from a prestigious architecture program, he is both fascinated and repelled by this group of friends he sits on the cusp of. He’s long admired Vivienne’s beauty, but isn’t sure he holds any place in so traditional a life. Intrigued by the extent to which Preston challenges the only way of life she’s ever known, Vivienne both courts his attention, and rebuffs his critiques of her antiquated values.”
I really enjoyed this story a lot! It takes place in Houston, which I loved, since my sister lives in Houston so some of the places were familiar to me. There was even a scene that took place a block from my sister’s house! Crazy! (I know it’s fictional, but it’s still fun!) I really felt for the main character, Vivienne, while at the same time being frustrated with her and her life. And her friends! The author really did a great job creating some real villains that you just want to punch in the throat.
Most of the story was in pretty close parallel with The House of Mirth… except for the ending. SPOILER ALERT – the main character in The House of Mirth dies in the end. The main character here did NOT die in the end. Knowing that original ending, I kept waiting for Vivienne to die tragically in this book, and it never happened. Which is fine, and I like the way Vivienne had her ending. Thought I must say, I’m not sure which ending I liked better… Probably the one where our heroine lives but… but… I’m just not sure!