The Reef by Edith Wharton – Forgotten Classic – Paperback Edition



1 in stock (can be backordered)

The Reef by Edith Wharton

This is the complete and unabridged text of Edith Wharton’s novel, The Reef. This beautiful paperback edition features original cover art by Haleigh DeRocher and is sold exclusively in this shop.

Read more about this book here.

The Forgotten Classics Collection is an ever growing collection of public domain books that deserve the title of Classic but have been largely overlooked by the general public – forgotten, as it were. These books may be obscure titles from popular classic authors, or books by authors that were popular in their time but have since fallen into obscurity. All of these books are worth reading, which is why I’ve decided to bring them back into print in hopes to grow their audience!

The Reef was published in 1912. Its themes of sexual betrayal and physical/emotional separation parallel the events of Wharton’s own life at the time – her marriage with Teddy Wharton was falling apart as he struggled with mental disorders as well as feelings of jealousy at his wife’s literary success and popularity; Teddy engaged in several extramarital affairs, which ultimately resulted in their divorce in 1913. Wharton, too, was guilty of adultery – she had a passionate affair with Morton Fullerton, which acted as her “sexual awakening” after a loveless, disastrous marriage with Teddy. In light of this novel being published during the time of the dissolution of her marriage, the female protagonists in The Reef, Anna and Sophy, are thought to represent the two sides of Wharton herself: Anna as the repressed and Sophy as the awakened.  The novel was not met with praise: In a review published in the New York Sun on November 23, 1912, the book was described as “a bitter, disheartening, sordid story.” However, the novel is expertly written and deeply evocative; it captures the psychological turmoil that comes with sexual betrayal, and the characters truly come alive on the page.


“I want our life to be like a house with all the windows lit…”

George Darrow is still in love with Anna Leath, with whom he was romantically involved as a young man. Their previous relationship met with an unexpected end, and she married someone else. But many years have gone by, and Anna has been widowed. Now is the chance to rekindle the love they both felt – and still feel. But how will their past experiences hinder their ability to pursue each other?

The Reef is a philosophical work that explores the emotional turmoil associated with casual sexual betrayal in the Victorian Era. As the title alludes, it is, in essence, the revelation of the hidden, metaphorical reefs present in the heart of all human relationships.

Published in 1912 during the dissolution of Wharton’s own marriage, this novel captures the sordid, disheartening spirit the author was living through. Though its public reception at the time was poor, its astute insight into the possibilities and limitations of human love cement it as one of Wharton’s masterpieces. Her command of her art is on full display in this gripping novel.

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