Rosedale In Love: The House of Mirth Revisited
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In the glittering world of money-mad 1905 New York City, Jewish financier Simon Rosedale plans to force his way into high society through marriage and has his eye on Lily Bart. One of the most beautiful women in the city, Lily is a down-at-heels aristocrat plagued by gossip and might be vulnerable to his proposal. With his money and her style and connections, he can rise to the top—but will she lower herself to marry a Jew? Could such a marriage heal Rosedale's secret shame, and will Florence Goodhart, the cousin who adores Rosedale, help or hinder his plans? Written in a period voice, Rosedale in Love audaciously revisions Edith Wharton's beloved classic The House of Mirth, offering readers a timeless American story of greed, envy, scandal, love and revenge.
Lev Raphael is a prize-winning author, reviewer, and blogger who has published nineteen books in a wide range of genres and been translated into a dozen languages. A former student of famed Wharton biographer Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Raphael has been reading Wharton for decades. He's written a highly regarded biography/critical study of Wharton as well as a comic mystery delving into the politics around her reputation.
A splendid summer read!
When I was looking for a book to travel with, Rosedale in Love was recommended to me by a friend. I must confess to not having read the House of Mirth; so, the character of Rosedale and the object of his desire, Lily Bart, were new to me. But, even without a previous history with these characters, this book was an absolute gem. I am a fan of historical fiction, though I have been frequently disappointed by authors who write in a style or with a tone that simply feels too contemporary. I’m pleased to report that the author of Rosedale in Love, Lev Raphael, does not fall into this trap. Truly, it’s as though he wrote Rosedale in Love at the turn of the 20th century, not the 21st. The book is painstakingly researched so the different set pieces all feel just right for the period. The dialogue is sharp and on target. And, the mood created by the author is true to the anxiety that accompanied the social and financial ascent of New York in the late 1800s. Indeed, Raphael’s descriptions New York are so compelling that, to me, the city was another (important!) character in the story. I enjoyed my ride in the time machine to 1890s New York and I found myself rooting for Rosedale with each passing page. A splendid read!
Elegant but Unsatisfying
While initially charming in its descriptions, this tale falls apart under scrutiny. Lovers of The House of Mirth will readily identify entire phrases lifted from the books, with startlingly little Lily Bart to show for it. However, a genuine feel for the original characters saves this work from being entirely superfluous. Having the perspective of Rosedale is interesting, but his actions do not shed new light on 'Miss Lily'. Florence's role is much cleverer, as the cruelty of women to their own kind is a topic that was explored in the source material, but not expounded on with another point of view entirely as is done here. I felt that the plot should have been more inverse to Lily's to have a true impact, and the note it closed upon non-committal in its view as to who was ultimately at fault. Open-endedness worked well for Wharton, but somehow strikes a false note in this story.