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Ethan Frome and Other Short Fiction

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On a bleak New England farm, a taciturn young man has resigned himself to a life of grim endurance. Bound by circumstance to a woman he cannot love, Ethan Frome is haunted by a past of lost possibilities until his wife's orphaned cousin, Mattie Silver, arrives and he is tempted to make one final, desperate effort to escape his fate. In language that is spare, passionate, a On a bleak New England farm, a taciturn young man has resigned himself to a life of grim endurance. Bound by circumstance to a woman he cannot love, Ethan Frome is haunted by a past of lost possibilities until his wife's orphaned cousin, Mattie Silver, arrives and he is tempted to make one final, desperate effort to escape his fate. In language that is spare, passionate, and enduring, Edith Wharton tells this unforgettable story of two tragic lovers overwhelmed by the unrelenting forces of conscience and necessity. Included with Ethan Frome are the novella The Touchstone and three short stories, "The Last Asset," "The Other Two," and "Xingu." Together, this collection offers a survey of the extraordinary range and power of one of America's finest writers.


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On a bleak New England farm, a taciturn young man has resigned himself to a life of grim endurance. Bound by circumstance to a woman he cannot love, Ethan Frome is haunted by a past of lost possibilities until his wife's orphaned cousin, Mattie Silver, arrives and he is tempted to make one final, desperate effort to escape his fate. In language that is spare, passionate, a On a bleak New England farm, a taciturn young man has resigned himself to a life of grim endurance. Bound by circumstance to a woman he cannot love, Ethan Frome is haunted by a past of lost possibilities until his wife's orphaned cousin, Mattie Silver, arrives and he is tempted to make one final, desperate effort to escape his fate. In language that is spare, passionate, and enduring, Edith Wharton tells this unforgettable story of two tragic lovers overwhelmed by the unrelenting forces of conscience and necessity. Included with Ethan Frome are the novella The Touchstone and three short stories, "The Last Asset," "The Other Two," and "Xingu." Together, this collection offers a survey of the extraordinary range and power of one of America's finest writers.

30 review for Ethan Frome and Other Short Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    The story (a novella – less than 100 pages) concerns a man with severe physical handicaps and how a visitor to a small New England town learned his story. The man is 52 and the accident happened when he was 21. The story was published in 1911 so we’re still in the horse and buggy days. With his handicaps, the visitor asks ‘who cares for him’ and learns that ‘he does the caring,’ first for his parents and then for his always-sick wife, who is 7 years older than him. Since he is a farmer and a log The story (a novella – less than 100 pages) concerns a man with severe physical handicaps and how a visitor to a small New England town learned his story. The man is 52 and the accident happened when he was 21. The story was published in 1911 so we’re still in the horse and buggy days. With his handicaps, the visitor asks ‘who cares for him’ and learns that ‘he does the caring,’ first for his parents and then for his always-sick wife, who is 7 years older than him. Since he is a farmer and a logger he struggles to get by and they live in a deteriorating house. We learn that the accident involves a love story – he fell in love with his wife’s young working girl who did the housework and helped care for his wife. It’s about loneliness, lost love, tragedy and being a “prisoner for life.” I read this story years ago but re-learned an appreciation for Edith Wharton’s excellent writing and style. I think I’ll read her most popular book, Age of Innocence. Some examples of what I thought was good writing: [While he watches the girl sew] “The sudden heat of his tone made her color mount again, not with a rush, but gradually, delicately, like the reflection of the thought stealing slowly across her heart. She sat silent, her hands clasped on her work, and it seemed to him that a warm current flowed toward him along the strip of stuff that still lay unrolled between them. Cautiously he slid his hand palm-downward along the table till his finger-tips touched the end of the stuff. A faint vibration of her lashes seemed to show that she was aware of his gesture, and that it had sent a counter-current back to her; and she let her hands lie motionless on the other end of the strip.” “ ‘I’ve got complications,’ she [his wife] said. … Ethan knew the word for one of exceptional import. Almost everybody in the neighborhood had ‘troubles,’ frankly localized and specified; but only the chosen had ‘complications.’ To have them was in itself a distinction, though it was also, in most cases, a death-warrant. People struggled on for years with ‘troubles’ but they almost always succumbed to ‘complications.’ ” The last lines of the novella: (view spoiler)[“…and the way they are now, I don’t see’s there’s much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; ‘cept that down there they’re all quiet, and the women have got to hold their tongues.” (hide spoiler)] A good read. Photos from top: Hampton, New Hampshire Sledding in 1910 from s3.amazonaws.com The author from cdn.nybooks.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Sadness. The ultimate feeling I have upon leaving behind Ethan Frome is one of infinite sadness. Sadness for people stuck - stuck in poverty, stuck in relationships that lack even friendliness, let alone love, stuck in a life they can never leave behind. To watch the transformation of Ethan and Mattie from people filled with such passion to people so broken and alone filled me with such an ache. That's the kind of story Ethan Frome is - one that leaves me aching. Aching with sadness for happiness Sadness. The ultimate feeling I have upon leaving behind Ethan Frome is one of infinite sadness. Sadness for people stuck - stuck in poverty, stuck in relationships that lack even friendliness, let alone love, stuck in a life they can never leave behind. To watch the transformation of Ethan and Mattie from people filled with such passion to people so broken and alone filled me with such an ache. That's the kind of story Ethan Frome is - one that leaves me aching. Aching with sadness for happiness lost, aching with gratitude and love for my own life (and love), aching to grab those near to me and shower them with affection simply because we are all here together. It is a story full of starkness. Stark imagery of a stark landscape, stark people stuck in a place of dark and harrowing winter. But there's a sort of stark beauty, as well, in people that go on living.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andreea

    I liked Ethan Frome and Xingu.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Markelle

    I am glad I read (listened to) this book-a classic. I love the setting in a time where manners, politeness and duty prevail over passion and desire even though it can make for a painful or much less happy life but honor is king so Ethan fulfills his duty as husband to care for his wife even though their is no love. And the one he loves can not be his. Definitely not the ending of fairytales. Short but not sweet story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Ughhh short stories are so short. This had a great start but left me wanting more. Overall this book is a collection of short stories. A few of them were really good, a few were ok and a few I didn't quite wrap my head around. Hoping this goes up to 4 stars the next time I read it. Ughhh short stories are so short. This had a great start but left me wanting more. Overall this book is a collection of short stories. A few of them were really good, a few were ok and a few I didn't quite wrap my head around. Hoping this goes up to 4 stars the next time I read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Libby Hinson

    Wonderful, but impossibly sad and haunting...beautifully written...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Al

    Ethan Frome is a reread; still an amazing story, and so different from most of Ms. Wharton's other work. The other short stories included in this edition are drawn from the same New York society world as Ms. Wharton's better-known novels. They are good, but don't pack the power of The Age of Innocence. Her gimlet eye must have caused many New Yorkers to squirm when she published, and she still has a message for us today even if the privileged world she describes has morphed into something very Ethan Frome is a reread; still an amazing story, and so different from most of Ms. Wharton's other work. The other short stories included in this edition are drawn from the same New York society world as Ms. Wharton's better-known novels. They are good, but don't pack the power of The Age of Innocence. Her gimlet eye must have caused many New Yorkers to squirm when she published, and she still has a message for us today even if the privileged world she describes has morphed into something very different.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Foote-Blackman

    If Edith Wharton had been a man she would hands down have been declared America's most important 19th century novelist. She makes the other literary giants of that period seem either desiccated or myopic or both, despite their great story-telling capacities; and I do include Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne, Mark Twain and even Henry James in the equation. No, Wharton--above them all--truly understands the homo sapien mind. Like no other talent she knows how to slow-reveal the truth of human If Edith Wharton had been a man she would hands down have been declared America's most important 19th century novelist. She makes the other literary giants of that period seem either desiccated or myopic or both, despite their great story-telling capacities; and I do include Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne, Mark Twain and even Henry James in the equation. No, Wharton--above them all--truly understands the homo sapien mind. Like no other talent she knows how to slow-reveal the truth of human nature, reeling in the reader with the skill of an expert angler. This collection includes "Ethan Frome," Wharton’s justly celebrated long story of a lonely farmer, his hypochondriac wife, and the young and too pretty wide-eyed cousin who trips lightly into the claustrophobic bleakness of their New England winter. This small paperback also includes such masterpieces as "The Touchstone," a kind of Tell-Tale Heart of the leisure classes that explores the impact of a man selling a famous woman's love letters with a microscopic look at human self-deception and paranoia; all this is done with psychological insight far ahead of Wharton's era. Wharton excels at slowly dredging up for her readers the small and subtle but accumulating clues to people's complex identities and flourishing foibles. This is evident in her other fascinating story, "The Last Asset," in which a narrator recounts the small orbit of innocents who are caught in the web of an ice-cold and manipulative social climber. "Xingu" also explores class and craving with a delightful romp into a pretentious ladies' Lit group who have lost all sense of what they're reading in favor of why: intellectual one upmanship, until a charming intruder milks their silly airs for all it's worth. The last story, "The Other Two," is psychologically astute as well. The plot deals with a woman and the awkward relations among her three consecutive husbands. Wharton is weakest here, though, perhaps because divorce was a subject that was too close to Wharton's own marital woes. While most of the main characters are abject in their blindness to their own motives and inevitably injurious to others, there is always a glint of redemption; in this Pandora's Box of avaricious and self-centered center-stagers there is always, in the wings the figure of Hope, a gentle but perceptive nature who redeems humanity for us and shows that the human cause is perhaps not entirely lost.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Honas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Frightening, though not truly horrific until the ultimate chapter. This book, a classic, is a gateway book to other horrific novels. Ethan Frome may not be a traditional horror story, but this tragedy, if not pure horror, is certainly horror adjacent. Ethan Frome is a tale from a specific time, and yet the descriptions of rural America are still apt, the trapped feeling of dead ancestors holding you to a patch of barren land. This book will be of interest to those who are interested in rural USA, Frightening, though not truly horrific until the ultimate chapter. This book, a classic, is a gateway book to other horrific novels. Ethan Frome may not be a traditional horror story, but this tragedy, if not pure horror, is certainly horror adjacent. Ethan Frome is a tale from a specific time, and yet the descriptions of rural America are still apt, the trapped feeling of dead ancestors holding you to a patch of barren land. This book will be of interest to those who are interested in rural USA, though it must be noted the author herself was not of this class. Love exists in this story, though like the earth in the story it fails to bear fruit. A subtle build up of tension leads to a climax which was not surprising as it is hinted throughout, however the results are what makes this tragedy so terrifying. The barren farmlands claws are as scary as any monster under a bed. Like any good monster, they are not explicitly described, but they are woven into every description, always right behind you. This book is comparable to Gothic Horror, and like all good Gothic Horror is filled with symbolism, a once beautiful, now shattered pickle jar cannot be re-made whole. Horror often contains a moral, one of the rationalizations I can make to allow it into my life, this moral could be summed up by Psalms 107:17 "Some fell sick from their wicked ways, afflicted because of their sins". This book is short, and with horror as my genre of choice I have no further comment on this story. Nor could I give it five stars at is more of a tragedy, a subject of which I know little. Three stars, I liked it. Eat well, live long. -Honas

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Ethan Frome was chosen by my book club as our classic for the year. I would not have chosen to read it otherwise. I had never heard of it and quite frankly I did not care for it. I understand that there is a lot to learn from it, but it just did not capture my interest and I would never have finished it if it were not for wanting to be prepared for book club discussion. It started out too slow and with so many books and so little time I would have gone on to another book. I did not attempt to rea Ethan Frome was chosen by my book club as our classic for the year. I would not have chosen to read it otherwise. I had never heard of it and quite frankly I did not care for it. I understand that there is a lot to learn from it, but it just did not capture my interest and I would never have finished it if it were not for wanting to be prepared for book club discussion. It started out too slow and with so many books and so little time I would have gone on to another book. I did not attempt to read any of the additional stories in the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This was a decent storyline, and definitely a quick listen, but I did have a few issues. First, as an older book the language was a times difficult for me to understand. In addition, I'm not sure I liked how it included an introduction and a conclusion with an outside narrator. It gave me the ending before I knew the beginning, and I don't know that the story was any more effective by doing so. Still this is a classic, and I can understand why just from the subject matter, but I was left a bit d This was a decent storyline, and definitely a quick listen, but I did have a few issues. First, as an older book the language was a times difficult for me to understand. In addition, I'm not sure I liked how it included an introduction and a conclusion with an outside narrator. It gave me the ending before I knew the beginning, and I don't know that the story was any more effective by doing so. Still this is a classic, and I can understand why just from the subject matter, but I was left a bit disappointed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joe Rodeck

    Miserable tale of a struggling farmer with a grouchy wife who falls in love with a younger relative of hers whom wifey doesn’t like from the start. I might have liked this lech story as tragedy or psychological study. I might have admired the literary realism. But I felt cheated at the unsatisfying conclusion. We’re left to guess the extent of the injuries to a couple of main characters. *Ethan Frome* probably had more sex appeal in 1911 that may have accounted for its success then.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Kennedy

    Decided to reread Ethan Frome for the first time since high school English class because all I remembered about it was that it was depressing and had something to do with sledding. For the record, my recollection was accurate. This time, the version I read also included short stories which were all new to me. Not a fan of "Afterward" because it's a ghost story, but I really enjoyed "The Legend" which pokes fun at snooty intellectuals. Decided to reread Ethan Frome for the first time since high school English class because all I remembered about it was that it was depressing and had something to do with sledding. For the record, my recollection was accurate. This time, the version I read also included short stories which were all new to me. Not a fan of "Afterward" because it's a ghost story, but I really enjoyed "The Legend" which pokes fun at snooty intellectuals.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jay Dewey

    An interesting and very well-written insight into the life and times of the wealthy class in the early 1900s. I'd just finished reading several P. G. Wodehouse that takes place in the same era and among the same socio-economic class, and yet so different, not in bias and attitude, but in how the works are framed. The gender lens in both authors is decidedly different. Even in her novella Ethan Frome, the main character (male) is outlined by his encounters with the women around him. An interesting and very well-written insight into the life and times of the wealthy class in the early 1900s. I'd just finished reading several P. G. Wodehouse that takes place in the same era and among the same socio-economic class, and yet so different, not in bias and attitude, but in how the works are framed. The gender lens in both authors is decidedly different. Even in her novella Ethan Frome, the main character (male) is outlined by his encounters with the women around him.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Ethan Frome, a poor New England farmer lives with his austere, sickly, hypochondriac wife and their help, his wife's cousin, Mattie. Every day is a struggle. Ethan becomes obsessed with this young woman, and the story explores his story to its dreadful conclusion. The landscape, Ethan's longings and despair, his bitter isolation are all explored in a book which, despite its bleakness, is hard to put down. Ethan Frome, a poor New England farmer lives with his austere, sickly, hypochondriac wife and their help, his wife's cousin, Mattie. Every day is a struggle. Ethan becomes obsessed with this young woman, and the story explores his story to its dreadful conclusion. The landscape, Ethan's longings and despair, his bitter isolation are all explored in a book which, despite its bleakness, is hard to put down.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cate

    As a Vermonter, I could picture the snowy landscapes so clearly - Wharton's descriptions in Ethan Frome were perfect! Also loved the references to things like "the L" in New England architecture (my parents have one of these) and oilcloth rugs (also featured in my childhood home). The story was slow but compelling and overall I liked it. That said, I thought the last paragraph was harsh and lacking in empathy, especially the bit about the women having to hold their tongues. As a Vermonter, I could picture the snowy landscapes so clearly - Wharton's descriptions in Ethan Frome were perfect! Also loved the references to things like "the L" in New England architecture (my parents have one of these) and oilcloth rugs (also featured in my childhood home). The story was slow but compelling and overall I liked it. That said, I thought the last paragraph was harsh and lacking in empathy, especially the bit about the women having to hold their tongues.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kanmani

    On a bleak New England farm, a taciturn young man has resigned himself to a life of grim endurance. Bound by circumstance to a woman he cannot love, Ethan Frome is haunted by a past of lost possibilities until his wife's orphaned cousin, Mattie Silver, arrives and he is tempted to make one final, desperate effort to escape his fate. In language that is spare, passionate, a On a bleak New England farm, a taciturn young man has resigned himself to a life of grim endurance. Bound by circumstance to a woman he cannot love, Ethan Frome is haunted by a past of lost possibilities until his wife's orphaned cousin, Mattie Silver, arrives and he is tempted to make one final, desperate effort to escape his fate. In language that is spare, passionate, a

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lexi Harder

    I read this independently in high school during a bout of depression and, well, my take on this book is testament to the fact that the time in which you read a book definitely colors how much you like it. To catatonic 16 year old me, I needed the kick in the pants that these even sadder new englanders gave me. The ironic ending made me laugh. Ethan! You're only 28! Cheer up! I read this independently in high school during a bout of depression and, well, my take on this book is testament to the fact that the time in which you read a book definitely colors how much you like it. To catatonic 16 year old me, I needed the kick in the pants that these even sadder new englanders gave me. The ironic ending made me laugh. Ethan! You're only 28! Cheer up!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Máire

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I cannot believe this book is as well liked as it is. UGH. There isn't a single thing I like about this book. Who the hell would think sledding into a tree would kill you?! Edith Wharton, your writing is flowery, but your plots and actual story telling skills are severely lacking. I'd give this 0 stars if I could. I cannot believe this book is as well liked as it is. UGH. There isn't a single thing I like about this book. Who the hell would think sledding into a tree would kill you?! Edith Wharton, your writing is flowery, but your plots and actual story telling skills are severely lacking. I'd give this 0 stars if I could.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Rege

    Edith Wharton's literary style stands the test of time. Her works are still easy to read, fun to read, and at the end of the day, a good read. Modern readers may be set back by this story's ending, but it's the definition of 'surprising but inevitable.' Edith Wharton's literary style stands the test of time. Her works are still easy to read, fun to read, and at the end of the day, a good read. Modern readers may be set back by this story's ending, but it's the definition of 'surprising but inevitable.'

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    Ethan Frome - five stars The Touchstone -- two stars The Last Asset -- three stars Xingu -- two stars The Other Two -- three stars

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brandon O'Neill

    Ethan Frome itself would get 5 stars from me. One of my favorite stories of all time. The other 4 stories here were OK - very different in tone and depth. Nothing great.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zoë

    Ethan Frome: 3 stars The Touchstone: 5 stars The Last Asset: 3 stars Xingu: 5 stars The Other Two: 3.5 stars

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Burnham

    Obviously a classic study of people in their natural habitat.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christi

    Audiobook-it was much easier to listen to than read as it can be rather dry. Interesting and quick--but I'm not sure what I think of it. Audiobook-it was much easier to listen to than read as it can be rather dry. Interesting and quick--but I'm not sure what I think of it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Clawson

    A great short read with a horrifying ending.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    Ethan Frome is, in my mind, a classic by any standard and Edith Wharton is an American author who should be given more attention and praise. Although many of her novels and short stories end sadly, Wharton's voice is very intentional and lessons can be pulled from each of her pieces. Ethan Frome is, in my mind, a classic by any standard and Edith Wharton is an American author who should be given more attention and praise. Although many of her novels and short stories end sadly, Wharton's voice is very intentional and lessons can be pulled from each of her pieces.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Salzinger

    Ethan Frome is a great short story. I did not read any of the other works.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alfhar

    Wet

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    audible Poor Ethan.

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