A forgotten classic by the acclaimed author of The Age of Innocence, The Custom of the Country recounts the story of Undine Spragg, a young out-of-town girl attempting to social climb in New York City, with devastating effects The Spraggs, a nouveau riche family with a shady background, have been enticed to New York City in an attempt to please their beautiful but determined daughter, Undine. She might have rapidly snared Ralph Marvell, a member of an illustrious but impoverished family, but a shadow from her previous life lingers in the shape of a threatening acquaintance from her Midwest days, Elmer Moffatt. Faced with the reality of a disappointing family life, Undine soon embarks on an affair and her marriage swiftly breaks down. But, once divorced, Undine loses her place in society and is forced to retire to the country to regroup and plan—her attempts to trap another husband are rendered problematic by her status as a divorcee. Resorting to blackmail, the ruthless Undine plays a dangerous game and things start to go awry as her secrets gradually begin to emerge with devastating results. Wharton’s brilliant writing shows the carnage that her heroine leaves in her wake as she undergoes the chilling transition from naïve young debutante to full-blown femme fatale.
About the author
American novelist Edith Wharton (1862–1937) is best remembered for her finely crafted stories depicting New York life, including The Age of Innocence.