I am a fan of Edith Wharton. I enjoyed Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and House of Mirth. Her writing is straightforward and is a time capsule of the turn of the century. She paints stark and vivid stories centering on women and the ways that they are boxed in by the circumstances of the time.
Though she often focuses on the tiresome lives of the wealthy, Summer follows Charity, an orphan of mountain people, who is living her life of few opportunities in a small town. She lives with the man who rescued her from her hillbilly relatives as his ward, and actively disdains him. He definitely doesn’t disdain her, ifyouknowwhatimean, and she has to decide what to do with his unwanted advances. But, unfortunately in the early 1900s the world was not full of opportunity for unmarried orphaned women working as part time librarians.
As much of Wharton’s work, you know this story isn’t going to end with happy endings for all. When a new man comes to town Charity is charmed by him. They start out as friends, and well, hijinks ensue. And he is totally going to come back for her and make an honest woman out of her! Think of this as a classic tale of “he’s just not that into you.” Because girl, read the room. But, it isn’t that Charity is a wide-eyed lovestruck woman, breathlessly waiting for her man. She sees the world for what it is, with a whole lot of nothing stretching out in the years ahead of her. So why should she care if she gives herself to a man who will never really want her? There is really only one other option for her, I’m looking at you, old ward guy, and just thinking about women who have these as their “choices” makes my eye twitch.
So, if you are a lady who is feeling a little glum about your own life, dip a toe into some Wharton and at least you will have appreciation that life is measurably better now in most ways in the US of A.