A Quiet Rebel

Click to View "The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton"

Click to View “The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton”

Edith Wharton was my kind of rebel:  A quiet, well-behaved one.  She tended to take practices that were rigidly defined by the Victorian society in which she grew up (entertaining, decorating, traveling, learning, gardening) and “rewrite”them according to her own specifications.

In a recent issue of Slate Magazine, Kate Bolick takes a close look at one such Edith Wharton rewrite:  entertaining.  The article is worth a read, not only because Bolick’s observations on entertaining àla Wharton work so handily in today’s world but also because she paints such a warm picture of a woman whose startling intelligence could make her distant and daunting.

If the article leaves you curious to know a bit more about Edith Wharton, try my 150-page biography, The Brave Escape of Edith WhartonIf you’re hungry for every last detail about this Pulitzer Prize winning author, Hermione Lee’s Edith Wharton is your best bet.

The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton

By Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Edith Wharton, author of Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth, and other acclaimed novels, was born into a wealthy New York City family during the Gilded Age. In fact, she was a Jones of “keeping up with the Joneses” fame.  This anecdote opens Woodridge’s biography of an astonishing life.  Beginning in childhood, Edith found ways to escape from society’s and her family’s expectations and follow an unconventional, creative path. Unhappily married and eventually divorced, she surrounded herself with the cultural creatives of her day, mostly male friends.  To escape the obligations of New York City high society, she spent much of her life in Paris and was recognized by the French government for her work establishing four charities during World War I. Her literary and personal life, her witty and incisive correspondence, her fondness for automobiles and small dogs–all are detailed in this vibrant account of a woman well ahead of her time.  Includes photographs, a bibliography, source notes, and an index.

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The Author

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge has written and published 5 non-fiction picture books for children, as well as articles and stories for Highlights for Children and Cricket. Her most recent book entitled Just Fine the Way They Are (Caulkins Creek/Boyd Mills Press) tells the story of how dirt roads turned into our present day interstate system.


“Any dreamy or bookish girl who once loved ‘Harriet the Spy’ should immediately take up this lively new biography…the author brings to life Wharton’s joy, consuming energy and ability to turn adversity into fuel and hunger… I like to picture girls lying on the beach reading this appealing book and receiving its secret message: stop i-chatting and posting on people’s walls — it’s time to write your first novel!”  – Katie Roiphe, New York Times Book Review, August 15, 2010

“… In this thoroughly researched, humanizing biography, Wooldridge writes with lively specifics about both the author and her time…Wooldridge’s skillful integration of Wharton’s literary and personal lives includes matter-of-fact, detailed accounts of her intense relationships with numerous “bachelor friends,” pictured among the many archival photos.  …[A] well-rounded, handsomely illustrated portrait, which will find an enduring place on classroom and library shelves”  – BooklistSTARRED review, Oct. 1, 2010

“Glimpses into her “imagining” sessions as a child and the heartache caused by a broken affair as a middle-aged woman create a vibrant and often endearing portrait of Wharton.”  – School Library Journal review, September 2010

“…a useful study that might lead sophisticated young readers to Wharton’s novels.” – Kirkus Reviews, July 2010

Edith Wharton Review, Spring 2011

“This book deserves serious consideration.”—VOYA, The Voice of Youth Advocates

Steve Goddard’s History Wire review, November 15, 2010

YA Fiction author Sara Zarr’s 2010 Reading Report

The Biographer’s Craft, Sept. 1, 2010, review

Awards & Recognitions

London Book Festival – Winner of the Best Biography Category

Young Adult Library Services Association – 2011 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award Nominee

Amelia Bloomer Project’s Recommended Titles for 2011part of the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association’s Social Responsibility Round Table

“Wooldridge has written a truly compelling story here, making Wharton a real person who came from a complicated family and grew up in truly fascinating times.”  – ChasingRay.com, August 30, 2010

Related Information

Connie’s Posts Related to Edith Wharton

The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton

By Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
Published by Clarion Books, August 2010
Juvenile Non-Fiction (Grades 7 & up)
$20.00 (US)

>> Other Books by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge