The Custom of the Country

Front Cover
Doubleday, 1998 - Fiction - 439 pages
With the publication of this controversial novel, Edith Wharton leveled her most biting critique at the limitations that her society placed upon the ambitious woman.

The Custom of the Country--which Harold Bloom, among others, considers her strongest achievement--takes its name from Fletcher and Massinger's Jacobean play about a medieval custom in which the feudal lord had a right to use the body of any common woman in his domain, either for his own pleasure or for money by prostituting her on her wedding night. In Wharton's American revision, it is the woman herself who ruthlessly sells herself to whatever man she believes can provide her with the success she desires. Undine Spragg is a magnificent antiheroine, viciously and precisely rendered by the author.

With photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn and drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, this Collector's Edition evokes the atmosphere of nineteenth-century New York. It also brings us closer to the author herself, with letters in her hand and other archival traces of her life from the special collections of The New York Public Library.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jaysbooks - LibraryThing

about a horrible, selfish social climber--main character is so annoying that I could barely force myself to finish the book--proves that women today are lucky to be educated with careers so they can divert their energy toward better things than parties clothes and status Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DeltaQueen50 - LibraryThing

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton tells the story of Undine Spragg, a Midwestern girl who attempts to scale the heights of New York City society. Undine is one of the most unique characters I ... Read full review

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1998)

Diane Johnson is the author of ten novels, most recently Le Mariage and Le Divorce, two books of essays, two biographies, and the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick's classic film The Shining. She has been a finalist four times for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Awards.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Bibliographic information