A Son at the Front Edith Wharton

ISBN: 9780875805689

Published: 1995


239 pages


A Son at the Front  by  Edith Wharton

A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
1995 | Paperback | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, talking book, mp3, RTF | 239 pages | ISBN: 9780875805689 | 7.55 Mb

Edith Wharton’s pet subjects — failed marriages, social minefields, and stymied dreams — play out against the backdrop of the Great War. As always, Wharton’s prose beautifully combines criticism with compassion, lyricism with clarity, and subtlety with wrenching drama. I found myself re-reading passages and just sighing.The set up for this novel hooked me before I even read it: In the summer of 1914, a divorced expatriate father living in Paris is anticipating a month’s travel with his son, George.

Adding a rosy glow to the prospect is the father’s recent success as an artist after years of struggle, which means he’ll finally be able to support his son financially. After all, he wants George to be “independent” and not have to work in some soul-destroying business such as the sons stepfather owns — such a nice touch to combine class snobbery and whiff-of-Bohemian artistic snobbery!Anyway, war breaks out and prevents the father/son vacation, but the big crisis is that George can be drafted into the French army because he was born while his parents were visiting France.

Oh, the twists of fate. This danger forces the ex-husband, ex-wife, and her second husband (who essentially reared George) into an uneasy collaboration to protect the son, without his knowing it, from active duty. The three parents scramble and scheme to pull every string they have to get George behind a desk, but, to everyone’s amazement and horror, George enlists.

The mother is devastated- the fathers are secretly proud. (And the reader isnt surprised as thats the title of the novel.) The bulk of the story concerns the agonies of parents waiting on the home front, a situation more complex because of the divorce and the weirdness of being foreigners in a country at war.Wharton explores the human psyche with such unrelenting perception that it’s almost painful. So many times I wanted to reach into the book and shake the characters even as I ached for them. You yearn for these people to rise above their petty concerns, but, as in real life, people usually fall short.

However, Wharton is a genius at portraying the moments of connection that offer transcendence. For instance, both men know the wife isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and needs to be handled carefully (though they can’t say it aloud), both have a father’s love for George, and both have a conflicted admiration for George’s willingness to fight.

I wanted the characters to burst into soulful, lushly orchestrated duets about their differing roles, but Wharton doesn’t provide musical theatre, just realistic insight, and so the result is more exploratory than cathartic.Edith Wharton lived in Paris during the Great War and drove an ambulance to and from the front, so she writes with nuance and authority on the issues of being American in Paris during the years before the U.S. entered the war. Mostly, though, I enjoyed a personal and family saga that gives insight into both a vanished social context and universal experiences.

Enter the sum

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