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House of Mirth by Edith Warton

Source: LibriVox (zipped mp3s | iTunes)

Length: 12 hr, 32 min
Reader: Elizabeth Klett

The book: Lilly Bart, an unmarried woman on the fringes of New York high society, is trying to parlay her looks and eligibility into a suitable marriage to a wealthy man. But in the Gilded Age, a single woman without family protection was at the mercies of rumors and Lilly’s self-willed spirit make her particularly susceptible to intrigue. The rules of society and the whims of love both seem to be working against Lilly as she tries to climb the social ladder, or at least avoid poverty.

Although set in roughly the same time period, this book plays out as the inverse of Downton Abbey.  Where Downton is English and rural, House of Mirth is American and urban. Where the Crawleys are an aristocratic family trying to hold onto its wealth, Lilly is trying to work her way into wealth and privilege. Yet, the battlefield of manners and drawing-room politics are similar. I ended up enjoying this book much more than I thought I would.

Rating: 8/10

The reader: Elizabeth Klett is one of Librivox’s best readers. She has an expressive American voice that makes the story easy to follow. Klett doesn’t exactly “do voices” here, but her intonation and expression change enough to make it clear who is speaking and give the speaker some characterization. The recording is clean and nicely produced.

Buy a paperback copy of  The House of Mirth

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