‘He looked at her hair and longed to touch it again, and to tell her that it smelt of the woods; but he had never learned to say such things...’
One harsh winter in 1900s New England, Ethan Frome toils at his farm while struggling to maintain a bearable existence with his forbidding wife, Zeena. When Ethan takes Zeena’s cousin, Mattie, home from a dance he is entranced: Mattie brings with her the possibility for happiness, and with that she quickly becomes a symbol of hope for Ethan.
First published in 1911, Ethan Frome is an intimate look at choices not made and lives not yet lived. Told through the eyes of a city outsider, this heartbreaking portrait of three lives haunted by thwarted dreams remains for many the most subtle and moving of Wharton’s works.
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 City, 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 our greatest writers.