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These brilliantly wrought, tragic novellas explore the repressed emotions and destructive passions of working-class people far removed from the social milieu usually inhabited by Edith Wharton’s characters. Ethan Frome is one of Wharton’s most famous works; it is a tightly constructed and almost unbearably heartbreaking story of forbidden love in a snowbound New England village. Summer, also set in rural New England, is often considered a companion to Ethan Frome — Wharton herself called it ‘the hot Ethan’ — in its portrayal of a young woman’s sexual and social awakening. Bunner Sisters takes place in the narrow, dusty streets of late-nineteenth-century New York, where the constrained but peaceful lives of two spinster shopkeepers are shattered when they meet a man who becomes the unworthy focus of all their pent-up hopes.
All three of these novellas feature realistic and haunting characters as vivid as any Wharton ever conjured, and together they provide a superb introduction to the shorter fiction of one of America’s greatest writers.
“Ethan Frome [is considered] Mrs. Wharton’s masterpiece . . . The secret of its greatness is the stark human drama of it; the social crudity and human delicacy intermingled; the defiant, over-riding passion, and the long-drawn-out logic of the paid penalty. It has no contexts, no mitigations; it is plain, raw, first-hand human stuff.”—The New York Times
“Ethan Frome is Wharton’s only fiction to have become part of the American mythology . . . Wharton’s astonishing authority here is to render such pain with purity and economy . . . Truly it is a northern romance, akin even to Wuthering Heights.”—Harold Bloom
“Traditionally, Henry James has always been placed slightly higher up the slope of Parnassus than Edith Wharton. But now that the prejudice against the female writer is on the wane, they look to be exactly what they are: giants, equals, the tutelary and benign gods of our American literature.” —Gore Vidal