Newland Archer, an eligible young man of the establishment is about to announce his engagement to May Welland, a pretty ingénue, when May's cousin, Countess Olenska, is introduced into their circle. The Countess brings with her an aura of European sophistication and a hint of scandal, having left her husband and claimed her independence.
Her sorrowful eyes, her tragic worldliness and her air of unapproachability attract the sensitive Newland and, almost against their will, a passionate bond develops between them. But Archer's life has no place for passion and, with society on the side of May and all she stands for, he finds himself drawn into a bitter conflict between love and duty.
‘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.