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A Son at the Front von Edith Wharton
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A Son at the Front (Original 1923; 1995. Auflage)

von Edith Wharton (Autor)

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1084194,093 (2.65)3
Wharton's antiwar masterpiece, now once again available, probes the devastation of World War I on the home front. Interweaving her own experiences of the Great War with themes of parental and filial love, art and self-sacrifice, national loyalties and class privilege, Wharton tells an intimate and captivating story of war behind the lines.… (mehr)
Mitglied:giovannaz63
Titel:A Son at the Front
Autoren:Edith Wharton (Autor)
Info:Northern Illinois University Press (1995), 239 pages
Sammlungen:Deine Bibliothek
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Tags:to-read

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A son at the front von Edith Wharton (1923)

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St. Barts 2012 #7 - I liked this book but did not love it. It has much of Wharton's signature writing style which is richly descriptive of people, especially their facial characteristics relative to their moods, etc. Much internal moral debating as to the 'proper way' to either feel or respond to a given situation. Lots of 'reacting' to a given situation based on assumptions, often wrong, rather than communicating. I did enjoy the perspective of American artists in Paris at the beginning of WWI....an odd place to be in that the country they were inhabiting was invaded by neighboring Germany, yet the USA remained neutral for quite sometime. An interesting study of the horrors of sending a loved one off to war. Another unique quality is that this is a war novel without battle details....it is a war novel from behind the front....a story of the attempt to live life as families wait to hear news of successes, failures and loss, and that is very cleverly done. A little overwrought overall, but i do love Wharton, and this is one that few take the opportunity to read. I only have a few left and i will have read her entire library of fiction. I will take my time with the few remaining. ( )
  jeffome | Jan 18, 2012 |
I love Edith Wharton but this is an awful, awful book.

"An anti-war masterpiece", says the back cover. More like a call to arms:

1. It reflects strong nationalism and anti-German sentiment which is often propaganda (Germany as "a nation of savages who ought to be hunted off the face of the globe like vermin").

2. It calls repeatedly for America to join in the war, which at one point leads Campton to say "Can't we let our government decide all that for us? What else did we elect it for, I wonder?" which is completely at odds with earlier statements (which resonated for me) about not wanting doddering old statesmen deciding to throw away young men's lives while in the comfort of their cigars and easy chairs.

3. The mindset of George and others evolves from indifference to believing that war was a moral necessity, and that they must not only go to war, but fight on the front line.

The plot is completely predictable and plods along behind the front amidst the rich who we care nothing about. There are coincidences such as the Spanish clairovoyant appearing in Paris which are absurd. Repeated references to George having been a Frenchman accidentally by birth and hence bound unjustly to fight in the war are overdone - here Wharton should have made the point once and deftly, and let the reader reflect on its irony.

The father, Campton, is self-centered and shallow, and yet he is the character with whom Wharton would like us to empathsize. His feelings of isolation on a "desert island" as travel war restricted, his need to "jog on without a servant" which was "very uncomfortable", and his need to have to "paint all the unpaintable people" because of the war all are ludicrous, as are his angst at selling sketches and later his difficulty in immersing himself in his painting. My, what hardships! They are completley uninteresting and ring hollow.

Wharton "writes what she knows": life in Paris among the well-to-do while World War I raged, but the reader longs to have the narrative transported to the front. She "writes what she knows", but in this case she knows very little about war, and did not create a novel with any significant emotional impact.

Quotes, starting with my favorite which appeared early on and which I took great delight in:

"Aeroplanes throwing bombs? Aeroplanes as engines of destruction? He had always thought of them as kind of giant kite that fools went up in when they were tired of breaking their necks in other ways. But aeroplane bombardment as a cause for declaring war?"

On isolation:
"His misfortune had been that he could neither get on easily with people nor live without them; could never wholly isolate himself in his art, nor yet resign himself to any permanent human communion that left it out, or, worse still, dragged it in irrelevantly."

On the history of civilizations rising and ultimately falling:
"All civilizations had their orbit; all societies rose and fell. Some day, no doubt, by the action of that law, everything that made the world livable to Campton and his kind would crumble in new ruins above the old. Yes - but woe to them by whom such things came; woe to the generation that bowed to such a law! The Powers of Darkness were always watching and seeking their hour; but the past was a record of their failures as well as their triumphs."

On Beauty:
"But after all there is the same instinct in us, the same craving, the same desire to realize Beauty, though you do it so magnificently and so - so objectively, and I ...' she paused, unclasped her hands, and lifted her lovely bewildered eyes, 'I do it only by a ribbon in my hair, a flower in a vase, a way of looping a curtain, or placing a lacquer screen in the right light. But I oughtn't to be ashamed of my limitations, do you think I ought? Surely every one ought to be helping to save Beauty; every one is needed, even the humblest and most ignorant of us, or else the world will be all death and ugliness. And after all, ugliness is the only real death, isn't it?"

On saying good-bye:
"They clasped hands in silence, each looking his fill of the other; then the crowd closed in, George exclaimed: 'My kit-bag!' and somehow, int he confusion, the parting was over, and Campton, straining blurred eyes, saw his son's smile - the smile of the light-hearted lad of old days - flash out at him from the moving train. For an instant the father had the illusion that it was the goodbye look of the boy George, going back to school after the holidays." ( )
  gbill | Apr 3, 2010 |
1389 A Son at the Front, by Edith Wharton (read 24 Apr 1976) This book is told from the vantage point of the father of the 'son at the front.' There was very little in this book I thought worth reading. Practically plotless, I could not admire anyone--even George, trying to get Madge to divorce her husband, left me unmoved. I said I believed I had read as much of Wharton as necessary, [But on 28 Aug 1991 I read The Custom of the Country, and on 12 Aug 1998 The House of Mirth]. ( )
  Schmerguls | Feb 8, 2009 |
The father never changes from beginning to end, he is an emotionally stunted individual unable to grow or gain a greater understanding from any event in his life, he doesn't know his son, exwife or any other person in his life except from his own narcissistic view of the world.
  lawrencemerkle | Feb 13, 2008 |
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Wharton's antiwar masterpiece, now once again available, probes the devastation of World War I on the home front. Interweaving her own experiences of the Great War with themes of parental and filial love, art and self-sacrifice, national loyalties and class privilege, Wharton tells an intimate and captivating story of war behind the lines.

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