I will say the following with the utmost respect for Edith Wharton: The House of Mirth reminded me a lot of Gossip Girl. Or at least, of the first season of Gossip Girl before it became too silly. A little googling shows that I’m not the first to observe this.
The first line of the book is “Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart.”. If you are at all familiar with Gossip Girl you’ll see that this pretty much the same as the opening scene of the show. I suppose Wharton’s works have been significant inspirations for the creators of the show, although, Wharton lived in and wrote about a world where convention and social structures were supremely important whereas in Gossip Girl these constraints are sort of artificially imposed and lead to somewhat ridiculous, but entertaining, story lines.
Anyway, I meant the previous as a compliment to the book. I found it, at least the first part, to be a delicious social satire, a fascinating look at the socialites of the time and how gossip and rumours basically rule their lives. The protagonist, Lily Bart, is not exactly nice but, for some reason, I couldn’t help but like her. The books charts the course of a few years in her life and it’s basically about how she has this strong connection with Selden but because of things they can’t be together. Lily definitely liked nice, luxurious, expensive things and this determined the course of her life. I think the reason that such a materialistic and perhaps snobbish person became actually likeable in the book is because she was also kind of an underachiever. She would form a plan and just when the goal was within reach she would give up because she remembered that she actually had morals. She was basically her own worst enemy. That endeared her to me and I was certainly wishing for a happy ending in her story.
This was a really well-written book and it really showed how well Wharton knew the high society of New York. I think she had a brilliant way of really looking at people and what motivates their actions; it’s what makes her stories so good!
Also, I’ve heard that the Adaptation staring Gillian Anderson is not very good. Have you seen it?