The best part of reading this book was looking up the Amazon reviews to realize that so many people went to this page in order to review the card game. I don’t THINK this novella was the source material for the card games, but meh, who knows. Eight Amazon reviewers could hardly be wrong, right?
Instead, the novella is about someone trying to find their way into New York society, not through dishonest means but through sort of sideways means.
I am not sure a got a lot our of this one, especially compared to the previous novella by Wharton that I read, but I did enjoy some of the discussions about divorce and marriage. There’s also still this real anxiety about how money functions in the US. Because we don’t have an actually caste or class system, our sense of worth as it related to these areas is skewed and unformed in any real sense. So when someone tries to break in, the anxiety about this is unclear. It’s not like in “Daisy Miller” where one cannot simply buy their way into society or where the rules are unwritten because they’re not properly bred into someone, in this novella, the costs are real, but the rules are not merely hidden, but more or less unwritten.
“In the old New York of the ‘fifties a families ruled, in simplicity and affluence. Of these were the Ralstons.
The sturdy English and the rubicund and heavier Dutch had mingled to produce a prosperous, prudent and yet lavish society. To ‘do things handsomely’ had always been a fundamental principle int his cautious world, built up on the fortunes of bankers, India merchants, ship-builders and ship-chandlers. Those well-fed slow-moving people, who seemed irritable and dyspeptic to European eyes only because the caprices of the climate had stripped them of superfluous flesh, and strung their nerves a little tighter, lived in a genteel monotony of which the surface was never stirred by the dumb dramas now and then enacted underground. Sensitive souls in those days were like muted key-boards, on which Fate played without a sound.”