Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome (Signet Classics)I am so glad that this book was picked for RBC and I was encouraged to finally read it.  It was amazing.  Some of these thoughts are already posted on the book club thread, but I wanted to share them with the vox universe as well.  I’m going to give away some major parts of the book because it’s an older book that a lot of people have already read and also because I don’t know how to talk about it otherwise.  So if you haven’t read it, please stop reading now, go to your library and find a copy, curl up in a comfy chair, and come back here when you’re through and let me know what you thought.


I loved this book. I read the last half in one sitting and got completely lost in the story. It was heartbreaking and
haunting. In the end, Ethan and Mattie got what they wanted (to never
be separated) but in such a way that no one would ever be happy again.  As much as I knew the characters were destined for despair, I couldn’t help put put all my hope behind Ethan and Mattie’s success and was ultimately devasated by the outcome.

Wharton did such a great job of eliciting empathy from the reader. I felt what Ethan felt; my heart was breaking right alongside his as they drove to
the train station. I despised Zeena for making everyone miserable. I
felt the hopelessness that Mattie must have felt at being turned away
from the only people who could protect her.

The setting played a large role in Ethan Frome just as it did in The Awakening (the previous RBC choice).  The vast, cold wilderness of western Massachusetts in the late 1800s is the perfect place to set a novel about a wasted marriage and a hopeless dream of escape.  Like the heat in The Awakening emphasized the loosening of morals, the frigidness in Ethan Frome emphasized the misery of the main characters.  In fact, the two stories are so similar that the setting is really the only thing that differentiates them (and the gender issue…).

The other comparison that popped into my head while reading this was Wuthering Heights.  An outsider leads us into the story and out again just as in WH.  The love story is doomed from the start.  The passion Ethan feels for Mattie leads to destruction like Cathy and Heathcliff.  They are very different stories, but I got similar feelings from both of them.

This is one of those books that I wish I had read years ago. I was missing so much by not reading it.

One thought on “Ethan Frome

  1. Vishy July 31, 2009 / 5:36 am

    Thanks for the beautiful review, Michelle! I haven't read any of Edith Warton's books before, and now I think I will start with 'Ethan Frome'. You have given a warning for spoilers, but I couldn't resist reading your review till the end 🙂 RBC seems to be an interesting place to read books together and share one's thoughts on books.


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