Take a Chance on a Classic: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Posted May 24, 2013 by Stormy in Books / 3 Comments

Back in March, I started a feature on the blog called “A Letter To”. During the month I wrote letters to various characters. March’s letters were dedicated to some of my favorite female characters as part of Women’s History Month. I was going to bring the feature back as a Friday feature in May, and while I do plan on resuming the feature at some point, I had a different idea for a weekly feature: Take a Chance on Classics. I know there’s a few people participating in a classics challenge & I’ve seen blog posts by bloggers who WANT to start reading classics but keep getting intimidated each time. So throughout the month, on Fridays I’ll be making the case for a few well-known classic books I think might be accessible to people who want to read “classics” but feel overwhelm. This week’s book? The House of Mirth. 

Making the Case for The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth

I first read The House of Mirth in an introductory American Literature class. It was one of my favorite classes in college. There were twelve students in the class, we had an awesome professor, and as sometimes happens, we all clicked really well. Aside from the classes I would later take in my major, it’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to another group of students. I looked forward to going to class everyday and was sad to see it end. Our discussions were some of my favorites.

Our final for the class was a take home essay, so during our designated final time we turned our essays in, ate cupcakes, and talked about books and literature in general. During our final discussion, my professor asked what everyone’s favorite book we read in class was and why. While I didn’t say The House of Mirth, the majority(probably 7 out of 12) said The House of Mirth. I remember one saying very clearly that The House of Mirth was her favorite book because of Lily Bart’s unpredictability.

And that’s why I’ve decided on it as the third Take A Chance on a Classic pick. In many classics, you KNOW where the story’s going. Not so here! The House of Mirth is also fairly “modern” as far as literature goes– only about 110 years old!(OK, so not modern, but compared to some of the books I could have picked). I’ve found it really accessible and engaging, and I think it’s a worthy book to take a risk on if you want to take a chance on a classic.

I’ll Recommend This For:

Not every book will be for everyone, and a classic book is no different! However, these are the people I would really recommend at least try reading The House of Mirth.

If you like the following TV shows:

Downton Abbey

Disclaimer: I have never actually watched an episode of Downtown Abbey. However, I have it on good authority that this would be a good match.

Girlmore Girls

If you like the tension between Emily and Lorelei, I think you might like The House of Mirth as well. There’s definitely some similar differences(though not familial, if I recall correctly–it’s been awhile since I read the book).

If you like the following books:

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park is more of a romance than The House of Mirth is, but there’s some overlapping themes.

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

There’s probably even less overlap here, but call it a gut feeling, even if Someday, Someday Maybe is more optimistic in outlook than The House of Mirth.

In The End:

Edith Wharton is one of my favorite American writers, and you really can’t go wrong with any of her books. The House of Mirth is my favorite of them and the one I think that most readers would enjoy. It’s mid-length, with accessible language and an intriguing main character. I think Lily Bart is attention-grabbing enough that even if a reader doesn’t LIKE her, they might be interested just to see what she does.


Previous Take A Chance on a Classic picks:

Sherlock Holmes

Jane Eyre



3 responses to “Take a Chance on a Classic: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

  1. Kelly

    I don’t know what it is about Gilmore Girls, but I can’t stand that show. The main girl is too sickly sweet or something, and I never felt the connection between mother-daughter. It’s been a while though, so maybe I should give it another shot!

  2. I love all of what I’ve read by Edith Wharton thus far – I haven’t read everything of hers, but I really enjoyed The House of Mirth. I read it for a class on American literature and I remember a long discussion on the tableaux vivants lol. Such a strange but interesting concept! My favorite work of Wharton’s is definitely her short story “Roman Fever.”

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