In 1917, when Edith Wharton published Summer, she was living in a France “steeped in the tragic realities of war.” Yet she set this book far away from Paris in the same dark, rigid New England she used for Ethan Frome. In such a place, she explored her most daring theme—a woman’s awakening to her sexual needs. The novel’s heroine, eighteen-year-old Charity Royall, is bored in the small town of North Dormer and ignorant of desire until she meets a visiting architect, Lucius Harney. Like the lush summer of the Berkshires around them, their romance is shimmering and idyllic, but its consequences are harsh and real. And the book, for its early twentieth-century audience, was shocking. Wharton’s pellucid prose, her raw depiction of the mountain community where Charity was born, the intrusion into Charity’s bedroom by her guardian, Lawyer Royall, and Charity’s rites of passage into adulthood elevate Summer into a groundbreaking study of society, nature, and human needs. Joseph Conrad prized this gem of a novel. The author herself favored it, and now the modern reader can experience the most erotic fiction Edith Wharton ever wrote with this handsome edition.
The upper stratum of New York society into which Edith Wharton was born in 1862 provided her with an abundance of material as a novelist but did not encourage her growth as an artist. Educated by tutors and governesses, she… More about Edith Wharton