Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton

My copy looks like this one.  I think Scribner was the original publisher. 
I am a huge fan of Edith Wharton -- Ethan Frome and House of Mirth are two of my all-time favorites, not just favorite classics.   I've been hoarding her books and have had Twilight Sleep and The Glimpses of the Moon on the TBR shelves for a long time, so I planned to choose one or the other for the Back to the Classics Challenge -- maybe both!  But I picked The Glimpses of the Moon and I'm counting it as my Classic by a Woman Author. 

Published in 1922, it's not one of her more famous works, so I was a little worried that it might not be among her best.  However,  I was very pleasantly surprised.  It's the story of a young American couple, Nick and Susy Lansing, who are newlyweds, and it begins as they're enjoying a honeymoon in a villa on Lake Como.  

The original cover, maybe. Could it be the honeymoon villa in Lake Como?
Like many of Wharton's protagonists, they're society people, but they're not actually rich -- they're basically hangers-on who sponge off their wealthy friends.  Theirs is not a traditional love story by any means.  They've set up an unusual agreement -- they know that they can live for at least a year on the wedding gifts and cash that their wealthy friends give them; after that, if one of them gets a better offer, they're free to divorce and move on, which sounds rather cold-hearted and mercenary, more like a business agreement than the basis of a marriage.

Of course, things don't work out as planned.  Various friends lend them fabulous houses and apartments that they're not using, but in reality, nothing is really free -- there's always some kind of condition or favor that's expected in return.  After awhile, this causes problems in the marriage, and then circumstances change that could upset the original arrangement altogether.  Susy and Nick start to realize that their marriage has changed them both, and they begin to want different things out of life.  

This book had some of the same themes as Wharton's previous novels, but it still seemed modern.  Susy Lansing reminded me of Lily Bart from House of Mirth, and what Lily's story might have been if it were set in the 1920s instead of thirty years before.  Nick Lansing also reminded me of Lawrence Selden. 

I love this art-deco cover. 
This was a fast read and I really enjoyed it.  I found the characters well-developed, though I wish there were more back-story about Susy), and as always, Wharton's writing was excellent, with a lot of witty observations.  It was an easy, fast read, and I got really invested in the characters and how it would all play out in the end, which I found very satisfying.  The Glimpses of the Moon is definitely one of my favorites by Wharton so far.

Besides Twilight Sleep, I still have some other Wharton works unread -- The Children and Madame de Treymes and Three Novellas, which I found last year at Half-Price Books and couldn't pass up.  Bloggers, have you read any of these?  Which one should I read next?


  1. I had not heard of this book. It sounds quite interesting. The only one of her books I have read was Ethan Frome and I just loved it. I'll look for more of her books.

    1. Ethan Frome is wonderful, but most people seem to love it or hate it. I think the haters were forced to read it in high school.

  2. I have this edition as well but it is one of the few I haven't read. I like the middle edition the best. Such a lovely cover. And I think you are 100% right on Ethan Frome.

  3. I do love this one, but it's definitely not my favorite by Wharton. I often feel like this is a "lighter" Wharton, if you know what I mean. :)

    Of what you have on your shelf, I recommend Madame de Treymes. It's a good one! And if you happen to find a copy of The Custom of the Country-it's another favorite of mine and it has the best name for a character-Undine Spragg. Suits her perfectly. :)

  4. I have only read The House of Mirth but it made me love Wharton completely. An absolutely amazing book! I'd never heard of this one …. thanks for the wonderful review!

  5. Nice review! I like the sound of this one. I'll add it to my list of must-read-one-of-these-days classics.

  6. Sounds good - I'm adding this to my TBR list.

  7. I'm glad you liked this book. Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors. And Glimpses of the Moon, in my opinion, is one of her more lighthearted reads. I just finished reading The Children over the weekend...I'll be posting about it later in the week...but I thought it was excellent. House of Mirth will always be my favorite, though. Great post!

  8. I've only read Wharton's 'major' novels, but I have a copy of this and now feel safe reading it. She was such a favorite of mine when I was younger, but I haven't read her for a while - time to reacquaint myself with her writing, I think.

  9. Sorry - I tried to leave this comment the other day but it didn't "take" apparently! I like Madame de Treymes very much -- and now I want to read this one!

  10. Ahhh another book for my TBP list!

    I'm hosting a Wharton readalong in May if you have anymore of her books on your TBR pile :-)


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