Bunner Sisters by Edith Wharton.
The Bunner sisters troubles start with a birthday present, a clock, given to Evelina by her sister Ann Eliza. The sisters are two spinster ladies, probably in their thirties, who own a small shop which sells the kind of items ladies require- artificial flowers, ribbon, that kind of thing. They live a shabby existence above the shop, one that's neatly ordered and ridiculously dull. Just the purchase of the clock throws them into a tizzy, especially since the clockmaker is a bachelor. The sisters invite the man, Mr Ramy, into their lives and he manages to turn their world upside down.
Yet another Wharton story with a "life sucks and then you die" theme to it. Utterly depressing and yet I keep reading them. Every time I read one, I get carried along by her words. She has such an artistry that she could make the phone book interesting.
Wharton makes the mundane world of the sisters real. You can see the sad little shop and Ann Eliza's dusty old silk dress in the picture of words she paints. Ann Eliza and Evelina are two women perfectly happy with this life until Mr Ramy comes on the scene. Then we see how desperately each woman wants out of it. And Ramy is no smooth Casanova. A woman has to be desperate to want this guy.
The sisters are so naive and innocent, especially for two women who run their own business. You would expect them to be a bit more savvy but they fail to see a disaster when it's coming right at them. I did admire the strength of one of the characters. She is selfless though it doesn't do her much good.
I have a bone to pick with Wharton though. I do feel she is unnecessarily cruel to her characters. She has a chance right at the end to offer us some hope. A teeny tiny glimmer of light. But no, she yanks it right out from under us all with a "haha! So there, suckers!" Now I'm not a Happily Ever After reader but come on, Edith, throw us a bone would ya!
Recommended for fans of Wharton who are in a good mood and can handle it or a bad one and want to stay there.