The tragic force of this ambitious early novel—early in her career at least—has to do with the broadness of conception, the immediacy of the strokes and scenes, rather than, as was so often later the case, a concentration upon details of manners…
Money, in novels, is such a potent reality principle that the need for it can override even our wish for a character to live happily ever after, and Wharton, throughout the book, applies the principle with characteristic relentlessness…
Wharton is mercilessly frank as she chronicles Lily’s fall from grace, contrasting psychological insights with descriptions of external effects. Her heroine sinks in stages…
Long after Wharton herself had escaped first into writing and then to Europe, her narratives enter the cul-de-sac in which Lily passively colludes in her own destruction. But tugging at that furniture also gave her energy—so much so that she gleefully screwed it to the floor again and again.
The cautionary tale of a woman conflicted, driven by the pressures of society into a cycle of destructive tea-drinking.— Lily Power