Summer

‘It was the beginning of a June afternoon. The springlike transparent sky shed a rain of silver sunshine on the roofs of the village, and on the pastures and larchwoods surrounding it.’

Seventeen year old Charity Royall lives with her adoptive father in the small town of North Dormer in New England. Born into a community of outlaws who live in the surrounding mountains, Lawyer Royall brought her down into the valley town when she was five years old and named her Charity ‘to keep alive in her a becoming sense of her dependence’. She knows she’s lucky but she feels stifled by the quietness of the town and increasingly disturbed by the behaviour of her guardian. So she takes a job in the library to save money for her escape, when suddenly one day the library door opens and Lucius Harney a young architect from New York arrives and sparks begin to fly.

Charity falls for Lucius hook, line and sinker and their romance is told with such vivid description that anyone who has been in love or seventeen will recognise her excitement immediately.

‘Harney tied the horse to a tree-stump, and they unpacked their basket under an aged walnut with a riven trunk out of which bumblebees darted. The sun had grown hot, and behind them was the noonday murmer of the forest. Summer insects danced on the air, and a flock of white butterflies fanned the mobile tips of the crimson fireweed. In the valley below not a house was visible; it seemed as if Charity Royall and young Harney were the only living beings in the great hollow of earth and sky.’

But not everything is seen through rose tinted glasses, the world in which the happy couple sit is a very real one. Charity is deeply ashamed of her roots in the mountain and when she eventually visits, has to come to terms with the savage misery of the mountain farmers and the thrifty, industrious poverty of the people in North Dormer. The hard drinking roughness of Lawyer Royall is a constant threat and local girl Julia Hawes provides the cautionary tale of an unmarried mother and prostitution.

First published in 1917 this was a collection of really well drawn characters, in a plot that never gave up told through the most beautiful lens. I loved it, a perfect read for the Ten Books of Summer challenge

32 thoughts on “Summer

    1. Ethan Frome is the only Wharton I’ve read so far, but it was so intense and powerful I’ve hardly dared to pick up another of her titles. This does seem like a real contrast, even though set in a similar environment.

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  1. I’m so glad you loved this, Jane! Such a beautiful post that brings back the mood of this book very vividly. It’s the perfect read for summer, wonderfully evocative and compelling with Wharton’s characteristic insight into human psychology.

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    1. ha ha! I read The House of Mirth for my classics challenge and am hooked. This would be a good one to start with – great characters and story in 160 pages, bargain!

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  2. β€˜ Summer’ is a short book but oh so powerful! We would expect a sweet summer romance judging from the title but what a depressing turn the story takes! I, too, have blogged about this novella. Edith Wharton is one of my favorite writers. I love the way you have revealed just enough to make future readers curious without giving the plot away.

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  3. Sounds like perfect summer reading indeed, and a lovely cover! I’ve only dabbled in Wharton’s catalogue, so I might add this one to my next Classics Club list… assuming I ever finish the last stragglers on the current one! I second the Ethan Frome recommendation if you haven’t read it yet – that was my introduction to her, and although it’s very bleak, I loved her writing in it.

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    1. Ethan Frome is definitely going on my next classics list. This is summery but meaty, lots to think about with the ending – which is difficult because I don’t want to give it away!

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  4. I loved Ethan Frome so much that I haven’t wanted to read anything else by Edith Wharton in case it doesn’t live up to that, but your review has me intrigued. The perfect title for your Ten Books of Summer πŸ™‚

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    1. Can anything be better than her novel The Age of Innocence? If anything can live up to anything, it is that classic novel πŸ™‚ Before I went on goodreads and book blogs, I didn’t even know people could be obsessed by anything else by Wharton, but The Age of Innocence which I have always considered her most popular and best work. You piqued my interest with Ethan Frome, but my second favourite after The Age of Innocence is The House of Mirth.

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      1. Well, now you’ve got me wanting to read The Age of Innocence! It’s on my list, but I’ve been holding off (as I said in my comment about Summer) because I loved Ethan Frome so much.
        You’re right about feeling obsessed, I read Ethan Frome twice in a row, then kept imagining how the story might have been told by other characters in the novel.
        I haven’t read The House of Mirth either, but will one day. Something to look forward to!

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  5. This sounds sublime, Jane 😊 I’ve not read any Wharton and each review I read urges me to take the plunge. Perhaps at last, here is my way in. (Followed by Ethan Frome in the winter).

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    1. I was thinking of you actually Sandra and whether it’s a good book for you to read at the moment and I think it is, beautiful descriptions of nature and a story to really get involved in!

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  6. I’m a little behind on my blog reading, so I’ve just spotted your lovely review. Although I’ve not read many of her novels and I’m particularly weak on her short stories, Wharton is one of my very favorite authors. By sheer coincidence, I was going through my “Wharton shelf” yesterday and ordered a copy of this novel/novella, so I have it in my future!
    (My favorite Wharton novel so far, by the way, is “Age of Innocence”)

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    1. I hope you enjoy it! She’s definitely a writer I’m glad to have discovered, Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome are at the top of my TBR!!

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  7. Great review! I have just picked this book up and I honestly don’t know what to think. I am only about thirty pages in and it’s a bit different from what I imagined. The setting is definitely “quieter” and there is more contemplation. The “quirky” Wharton emerges for me πŸ™‚

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    1. I’m sorry to be so late in replying Diana, you must have finished it by now – I wonder what you thought in the end? I’m looking forward to you review!

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  8. My absolute favorite of hers is The House of Mirth. I’ve read it twice and plan another read in October. The Custom of the Country has one of literature’s least favorite heroines (!), and and of course there is The Age of Innocence for which she won the Pulitzer prize for literature. Ethan Frome is a rather short novel that is very good.

    Wharton has also written written some wonderful novellas, including Madame de Treymes and the Bummer Sisters.

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