The Buccaneers

The Buccaneers is the unfinished final novel by Edith Wharton that was finished for her after her death by Marion Mainwaring.  I’ve never read it.  Edith Wharton, I have no problem telling you, is not one of my favorite authors.  I struggled with The House of Mirth and had a film adaptation of The Age of Innocence forced upon me by the same college professor who made us read the other one.  There’s just something about Edith Wharton, and her male counterpart Henry James, that makes me heave a sigh and roll my eyes.

I think it’s because no one ever finds happiness in their novels.  Which leaves me to believe the early 1900s in New York society was fucking dreadful.  Everyone was marrying for money, but no one had any, or they didn’t have as much as they were meant to have, and, holy hell, when their spouse finds out it’s all “you lied to me!” when they did no such thing.  And since people are in loveless marriages there’s always a friend or a cousin who comes along and is exciting and worldly and good in the sack.  Marriages fall apart and children are burdened with their parents’ selfishness and foolishness.  The slightest suggestion of impropriety on a woman’s part was enough for her to be ostracized forever.  A man, it seems, might be able to regain some favor with the community after engaging in inappropriate behavior, but only if he behaves himself very well indeed.

The BBC adaptation of The Buccaneers was oddly different from your typical Edith Wharton novel.  Mostly because of the ending.  It had a very E.M. Forster/Jane Austen feel to it.  It was very satisfying.  But surprising and shocking, because it was not Wharton-like.  I looked up the novel once I’d finished the miniseries, that’s when I learned about it being finished by someone else.  All the true and ardent Wharton fans on the Internet were horribly disappointed.  They all seemed to agree that the first three quarters of the novel are delightful, but the last bit is bad.  “Like falling off a cliff”, it was described.  I’m already disinclined to read it since it is a Wharton novel, but those reviews have me questioning many things about it both in favor of reading it and in favor of not reading it.  We shall see.

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