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If only I were sure of knowing what to expect!’ he caught up at her joke, tossing it back at her across the fascinating silence of their listeners.
‘Why everything!’ she announced

With the intention of making a suitable match, Undine Spragg and her parents move to New York where her youthful, radiant beauty and ruthless ambition prove an irrestible force. Here Edith Wharton dissects the traditions, pretensions and prohibitions of American and European society – both the ostentacious glitter of the ‘nouveau riche’ and the faded grandeur of the upper classes – with an eye on all the more exacting for its dispassionate gaze. And in Undine Spragg she has created an unforgettable heroine – a woman taught to dazzle and enslave, but to know nothing of the financial and social cost of the status she so passionately craves.

Reviews

Edith Wharton is unique in its intimacy and sureness, not to mention the virile and satiric tone, and which she investigates this narrow and declining society
Times Literary Supplement