Aug 4, 2014

First part: "The Custom of the Country", by Edith Wharton

Is it me, or this Undine girl we have actually met somewhere? It is amazing how real the characters are! What do you think of her? She is capable of manipulating her own parents, but once out in society she is copying every other "high society" lady... Will she grow and become a more mature person by the end of the book? To me, this smells tragedy!
What about the descriptions of society? Have we made so much progress? New York versus South?
I was surprised to see that the story moved fast, we get the romance and the wedding, and there is a lot of pages still to go! This is no Jane Austen (not I critic, I love Austen) but this is going much farther, reviewing maybe "the customs of the country"...


  1. What do I think of the protagonist? She is obnoxious!
    What is wrong with her? I think that her parents have missed something in the educational process. She does not respect or value them at all; as when asked by her parents' interests and she realizes she had never paused to consider they had any beyond herself...

    Mr. Marvell appears to be so nice and naive that I am sorry she has tricked him into marrying her (and that fast!). I guess she is too beautiful and too good of an actress. On his part, he seems to live in a world of leisure, contemplation and poetry that makes him unable to understand, or want to understand, what she might be interested on.

    Undine' social desire of belonging to a "higher" class is so excessive and ridiculous that actually puts her in a position in which she treats herself as an object that has to have certain qualities and characteristics to be good for marriage. The first time love is mentioned as part of marriage is when Mr. Spragg directly asks his daughter: "ain't you in love with the fellow, Undie?"

    The style of the prose, the fine satire, and the subtle irony, made me highlight while reading a big number of great phrases in which the society is criticized and family and social relationships are shown up.

    Looking forward to learning about how fast the marriage is going to end, which I guess is what will happen when Undine finds out that Mr. Marvell' social position is not linked to wealth...

  2. A peak on chapter 11
    Just a few pages on chapter eleven, and the marriage drama is already there!
    It is shocking the very fast speed at which events happen, as already Rocío mentioned. For some reason, I was expecting a slower pace. Having said that, the speed of the story does not interfere with the clarity in describing the atmosphere and the different characters.
    I though Mr. Marvell was blind to the real Undine, that somehow he didn't see beyond her outside beauty. However, it has surprised me to read that he seems to know her very well: Her vanity, her selfishness. At one point we read that "Undine was no longer beautiful - she seemed to have the face of her thoughts".

    I was eager to share my last thoughts, but I will wait to read some more before I keep on commenting! Looking forward to reading other members' comments too.

  3. Very well picked phrase! ("no longer...").
    I'm way ahead from that now... smells tragedy already!
    Undine is terrible!!!

  4. This girl really gets on my nerves!! How can someone be so superficial? But her parents get on my nerves too. And the members of the fake and materialistic society… puaj! As Macarena mentions, her parents are definitely to blame for her attitude towards life and towards them. She is a young selfish dictator.
    I would like to think that (at least part) of our society has evolved to less artificial social attitudes. I am aware that, unfortunately, these people are real but I can see that they are unhappy and frustrated, trying to be someone they are not, and satisfy people and feelings that will never be satisfied. I have to admit that it makes me feel good and confirms that’s not the way to go.
    I am glad that the events are happening so fast. If the story went slower, I am not sure I could put up with it for long. I was also surprised that from one chapter to the other, they were getting married! I thought I had missed a chapter.

    Was Mr. Marvell looking for the money? That’s the impression I get when I am about to finish chapter 10. He thought she was rich and he could live on her and just write his poetry and mingle around. Did he think she was a good deal!? I wouldn’t be able to stand her for one minute.

    And this guy from Apex she was engaged to who comes out of the blue? I liked that unexpected visitor. I can smell the tragedy too!!

    1. I had not thought of Ralph Marvell going after Undine's money... That's an interesting point you are making there, Arantxa. For me, he saw her as an innocent and inexperienced young lady new to New York' society, and in marring her, he was fulfilling some kind of mission to "save" her from making the wrong choices and going with the wrong people. I see Mr. Marvell so idealistic and so absorbed in his own aristocratic, poetic world, that I think he would never have thought about money - until Undine started demanding that what she needed was more than what he could provide.
      Anyway, we'll see!


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