I know I've been slacking lately, sorry sorry! I read this one sometime last week, in only a day or two. I have read Age of Innocence by Wharton and loved, loved it. This is the second book by her that I have read.
To me, this book is not to the same level as Age of Innocence. We get the classic start of the narrator coming to a town and seeing a peculiar gentleman, thus filling him with desire to learn everything about him (see Wuthering Heights - though Ethan would be a bit more likable to most than Heathcliff). Wharton seems to love writing books about people in love who are never able to get it together. Which I love.
Ethan is married to Zeena, who is a hellish woman obsessed with how sick she is. I mean, thank god those two didn't have kids or Zeena would be that mom who pours drain-o in the babie's soup just so she could get some attention. Anyway, she's "sick" and has her cousin Mattie stay with them to help around the house. Of course Ethan is in love with Mattie. Ethan is tied to his family farm and his sick wife so he's all around unable to achieve a real life of his own.
I've noticed on goodreads.com that this book has tons of low ratings due to it being about as depressing as can be. Which it is. But, there's got to be some beauty in despair and doomed situations. Otherwise why would anyone read Romeo and Juliet? For whatever reason I'm more drawn to love stories that don't quite work out so well, so I enjoyed this one.
As I expected, Wharton's writing was wonderful. She's able to capture nuances of behavior very well. Her descriptions of the landscape are also pretty boss.
In short, I would suggest reading Age of Innocence over Ethan Frome. However, if you are the type who drools over Wuthering Heights (like me!) then pick this up and prepare for some angst.
Lines that I loved:
"But since he had seen her lips in the lamplight he felt that they were his." - 57
"It was a shy secret spot, full of the same dumb melancholy that Ethan felt in his heart." - 153
"they seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods... "154
page numbers from some random old edition I have - not the one pictured.