Review: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

by | Mar 5, 2020

“I had the sense that the deeper meaning of the story was in the gaps.”

I own more copies of Ethan Frome than any other book, and I can easily say it’s my favorite novella I’ve ever read. But I also feel like I’m constantly defending my love for it, because it is soOOoO dEprEsSinG and sAd. I finished rereading it the other day, and figured I’d write this review while it’s still fresh on my mind. .

Ethan Frome is an evocative portrait of human suffering – from the frozen landscape (which Wharton writes into the story as a character of sorts), to the intense but staved longing of the characters, I don’t think I’ve ever read something quite so heart-rending. Though this is a desolate and despairing tale, there is much to be learned from these pages – in terms of human emotion, empathy, and how to react to the difficult question of duty verses desire. Ethan Frome, though his struggles are unique, is in each of us – aspects of his suffering can be found in every human trial. That is something that I love about Edith Wharton. She had an incredible capacity to capture and pinpoint humanity in her stories. In Ethan Frome she perhaps does this the most deftly. Don’t shy away from this book because it’s sad! Because it is also beautiful and moving and gets those hard questions a-stirring. 

After I finished Ethan Frome I immediately started her short novel Summer. I love the juxtaposition between the almost constant “frozen” quality of EF to the lush, lucrative descriptions in Summer. Reading them back to back is excellent and I highly recommend. ??

Have you read Ethan Frome? Do you love it or hate it?

Here is one of my favorite editions.

Follow me on Goodreads for more book reviews! I’ve read a lot this year that I haven’t made posts about because I only want to review four and five star reads 😉

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