Saturday, March 3, 2007

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

I normally don't read the back covers of books if I have not already read the work itself. While I didn't read the brief synopsis on the back of Ethan Frome, the one-sentence description at the top caught my eye. "The classic novel of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual undercurrents set against the austere New England countryside." This is a very good description of Ethan Frome.

As Brent pointed out in his review of this book, the plot is not all that complicated, noting that it could be described as a character study. I also agree with Brent on the subject of Wharton's prose. At times I found it completely arresting. The images that her words conjured up were amazing.

As I was reading the book, I thought numerous times of the Woody Allen film, September. Ethan Frome and September share many of the same themes, such as forbidden love, depression, and complicated relationships. But the strongest connection between the two is the setting. Edith Wharton's vivid descriptions of the fictitious Starkfield, Massachusetts make the town an active character in the story. Often the town, and the weather associated with it, do as much to progress the plot as any of the characters do. In September, the setting is not a town, but a house--a house which Woody Allen has described as the most important character in the film.

Another film that Wharton's novella brought to mind was Lost in Translation. I would find it hard to believe that Sophia Coppola had not read Ethan Frome prior to making the film. Besides the general melancholy feel of the movie, some of the characters are quite similar to those in Wharton's work.

Note: If you have not read Ethan Frome, leave the introduction that accompanies this edition until the end. If you read it before, it will ruin what little twists and turns of plot the story does have.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

I love this book. Did you happen to surmise that pickle = penis and pickle dish = vagina? True story.