Translating Edith Wharton

The biography that first introduced me to Edith Wharton was Shari Benstock’s  No Gifts From Chance (1994)From there, I worked my way back to R.W.B. Lewis’ Edith Wharton; A Biography (1975) and then forward to Hermione Lee’s Edith Wharton (2007).  By the time I’d devoured these three books I was grabbing anyone I met by the lapels and insisting they read about this extraordinary woman. Not many people listened to me, probably because all three of the biographies I was pushing were over 500 pages.

I decided Edith Wharton needed a translator – someone who could edit the existing 500 page tomes down to around 100 pages so that the woman I had discovered would become accessible to the lay reader.  Often, that’s what we non fiction writers are:  translators. We don’t necessarily uncover new letters or documents, we simply take what exists and make it readable to a new generation or to a new age group or to anyone who doesn’t know.

Of all the reviews and comments I’ve read about The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton, the most satisfying was one by Booklist reviewer Colleen Mondor on her blog “Chasing Ray”   She claims she hated Ethan Frome when she read it in high school, decided to give my short biography a try, and has now joined the “Edith Wharton Fan Club.”  Music to my ears!

And here’s what I suspect:  That people who have read The Brave Escape… will be so intrigued by this woman that jumping into a more detailed 500 page biography will seem like nothing.

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.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

Connie Nordhielm WooldridgeBiography | View

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