One of Edith Wharton's most acclaimed works, The Custom of the Country is a blistering indictment of materialism, power, and misplaced values. Its heroine, Undine Spragg, is one of the most ruthless characters in all of literature, as selfishly unscrupulous as she is fiercely beautiful. As she climbs the class ladder through a series of marriages and affairs, she shows little concern for who she has to step on. Her rise to the top of New York's elite society provides a poignant and scathing commentary on the unquenchable ambitions of America's nouveau riche.More
"Of all Edith Wharton's novels, The Custom of the Country is my absolute favorite....Grace Collin's reading of Blackstone's unabridged version is splendid, her voice fruity, elegant and utterly ruthless." (
Named a Staff Pick, Selected by the Staff at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library, November, 2007
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Subtly but Extraordinarily Insightful
I don't know that I had a favourite character - there were lots of characters I felt profound sympathy for, but I don't think there were any really admirable people in the book.
Staid, hesitant, satisfactory.
Something about how far someone could go for what they want.
The main character, Undine Spragg, is completely selfish and ruthlessly sets out to get what she wants (money and social standing) without any concern for anyone else's health or wellbeing. She occasionally exhibits a bit of sentimental concern, but it has no real depth. Her beauty and manipulation do get her what she wants, but then those things don't fulfill her for long and she starts plotting her next selfish moves... However, astonishingly, I spent quite a lot of the book feeling sorry for her. She is simply completely unaware of what is really important in people's lives (trust, caring, etc). I suppose she's a psychopath. I was stunned at her coldness, and yet I pitied her inability to see beyond the narrow confines of her overwhelming and selfish needs. I have never read or listened to anything by Edith Wharton before, but I will definitely do so again.
I gave up ...
- Elizabeth Davies