Sep 26, 2014

Chapters 21 − 30, "The Custom of the Country", by Edith Wharton

How are you enjoying the book so far? Does Undine's level of ambition and self-centrism still have the capacity to surprise you? What do you think about how the whole divorce and Mr. Van Degen story ended up? Did you feel sorry for Undine…? And what/who else do you think Undine will try to manipulate next to pursue what she thinks is of her right?
The book is certainly full of surprises...


  1. I believe I have said it before, but I feel Undine' social ambition, selfishness and lack of scrupulous is too much. Too much to be all part of one real person... Or maybe not?

    I recall reading a comment about the book in which the critic, who wrote nicely and seemed very well informed, was wondering why Mrs. Wharton might have wasted so much of her talent and time in describing such character and such part of American custom. I guess, Edith Wharton was quite interested for that custom and type of characters, and the truth is that the book is beautifully written and the story wonderfully structured. Precisely for that, it is a pity that some of us (I include myself and maybe the author of that comment) cannot completely enjoy the marvelous prose and great definitions of the book because of the disgust of having around the main character... All the time while reading, I am with a bitter-sweet feeling of enjoying what I am reading but not liking who I am reading about. Maybe that was part of the author's intention?

    In these chapters, as in previous, there were many sentences I could not help highlighting. Among them:
    - "If only everyone would do as she wished, she would never by unreasonable"- Needless to say who this marvelous and clarifying sentence is talking about.
    - "I never yet saw a marriage dissolved like a business partnership. Divorce without a lover? … it´s as unnatural as getting drunk on lemonade".
    - " it was dreadful that her little boy should be growing up far away from her, perhaps dressed in clothes she would have hated".

    Did I feel bad or sorry for Undine after all the divorce issue? Certainly not, but for her parents, ex-husband, kid...

  2. Dear Cookies,

    I made it! Better late than never.

    I admit I struggled throughout the book and reading Macarena’s comment, I couldn’t agree more. The book is well written and constructed, but I definitely did not like what I was reading. Did I need so much detail on Undine’s stupidity? Much of the description seemed unnecessary. After the first two chapters, it was clear to me that she was stupid and selfish and childish and considered herself the center of the universe. I got bored at points and annoyed most of the time.

    I feel sorry for the kid, but not for her parents: they created the monster and I guess they paid their toll. The most annoying thing is that I get the impression that she always manages to get what she wants. I believe there are people like that who are ready to hurt, lie, marry and divorce, abandon her child and what not, in order to get things the way they want. The majority of people are not that way, but I can’t help thinking that out there, there are Undines (males and females) without any sensibility and empathy.

    I cannot say I disliked the novel, but I guess it is not my style. I am glad I read it, but I can’t wait to move on!!


  3. I need to make a comment after finishing chapter 36: Mi first impresion is that Marvell' suicide comes too suddenly. Now that I think about it, I can say that maybe the previous pages were announcing it but I didn't see it coming... . He is very fond of his son (as stated by himself), and he doesn't know how to find the money to keep his son with him, so he kills himself? Maybe I didn't get the previous pages descriptions, maybe I am trying to racionalize something that is totally irrational, but I just found it too much... I have just read a few pages after the suicide, and I am already horrified about Undine's reaction and concerns. Let's see what comes next...


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