Edith Wharton is great, don’t get me wrong, but reading her novels leaves me feeling emotionally drained. She never met a happy ending she couldn’t stomp all over with a fashionable boot.
|Wharton ending feelings|
Then Glimpses of the Moon happened and YAY! No misery! I had my doubts at times. I thought for sure someone was going to fall off a boat or get run over by a hired car. Something. It was a pleasant surprise when that didn’t happen.
Let’s get into it.
Nick and Susy run in the same circles. Both are hangers-on of the fashionably rich American set. Their families having lost their own fortunes years ago, they depend upon the “kindnesses” of their wealthy friends. Second hand dresses, jewellery, a room in a nice house, and all it costs is a little personal humiliation.
Susy decides she and Nick should get married. Friends would offer them their vacation homes in Europe for the honeymoon period, plus there would be the wedding gifts of money. She believes she can manage all of this for a year, after which they can separate if a better opportunity appears.
Everything is wonderful at first. They live a life of luxury in the most exotic locales. However, nothing comes for free, and the couple learn the hard way just how much this lifestyle costs.
Susy is basically a smarter Lily Bart. She’s much more practical. A girl’s got to eat! Susy knows how to “manage.” The problem is Nick doesn’t want to know how the sausage is made. When he learns, he doesn’t like it. I thought Nick was pretty uptight for a guy who agreed to mooch off his friends for a year with a sham marriage.
Glimpses of the Moon highlights the differences between the sexes in this world of outsiders riding in the wake of the wealthy. Nick, being a man, can live in blissful ignorance, while Susy pulls the strings that keep them upright. Once Nick is married, he leaves it all to her, even Susy sees this:
BUT there were necessary accommodations, there always had been; Nick in old times, had been the first to own it.... How they had laughed at the Perpendicular People, the people who went by on the other side (since you couldn't be a good Samaritan without stooping over and poking into heaps of you didn't know what)! And now Nick had suddenly become perpendicular....Nick ain’t no angel either! He lives by his own moral code, but he did things that I thought were worse than anything Susy did. (Spoiler: Encouraging Susy to leave 5 kids on their own without their parents. What is wrong with you Nick?!)
Nick is too proud. Too quick to jump to conclusions. Too judgey. Lighten up Nick!
What these two refuse to see is that they belong to each other. Their marriage might have started as a joke, an opportunity, but it lead to love. The reader spends most of the novel wondering if these two will stop being stubborn and say what they really feel.
As she looked back on it she saw how much it had given her besides the golden flush of her happiness, the sudden flowering of sensuous joy in heart and body. Yes—there had been the flowering too, in pain like birth-pangs, of something graver, stronger, fuller of future power, something she had hardly heeded in her first light rapture, but that always came back and possessed her stilled soul when the rapture sank: the deep disquieting sense of something that Nick and love had taught her, but that reached out even beyond love and beyond Nick.Wharton can write beautiful things about love. Glimpses of the Moon is a romance, and even though there will be a happy ending, there are hints at the end that there will still be rocky times ahead. She’s too much of a realist to end on a completely blissful note.
It can’t be a Wharton novel about rich people without the usual digs at the privileged. The very wealthy are as self-absorbed and heartless as they are in all her novels. They marry and divorce without a care.
Although I thought Susy was The Bomb Dot Com, Glimpses of the Moon is not my favorite Edith Wharton. I love her misery too much. This would be a palate cleanser snuggled between some of her more usual cry fests.
|Maybe that's what's wrong with me.|
About the Audio: Glimpses of the Moon was narrated by Anna Fields. She was good as all the characters, except the children. Adults speaking like children is my pet peeve. Also, this was a production from 1998. It’s weird to have some one say, “For more information, call this number” instead of a website.
Note: Glimpses of the Moon was made into a silent movie and most recently a musical!