Until chapter 32, Twilight Sleep is an amusing, satirical tale of an well-heeled family in New York City in the roaring twenties.
Pauline Munford fills her life with activities to improve herself and her world — a world from which she keeps herself well insulated.
Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton
D. Appleton, 1927. 373 pp. 1927 bestseller #7. My Grade: B+.
Her husband, Dexter, fills as much of his life as possible with his law business so he won’t have to enjoy Pauline’s management of his life.
Pauline’s children, half-siblings Jim and Nora, see their mother’s faults, but afford her the courtesy of believing she means well.
Every one except Pauline worries about Jim’s flightly wife, Lita, who is more than ready to dump Jim for a movie screen test.
Fortunately, Dexter steps in, taking an interest in Lita, arranging for her to come to the Munford’s country home for a vacation while Jim goes fishing with this father.
The story is as light and purposeless as the ’20s — until chapter 32.
Then the off-hand comments of the first 31 chapters ignite in one brief, blinding flash that changes everything except Pauline’s refusal to see anything she doesn’t want to see.
Edith Wharton’s story is so frothy, you won’t realize how cleverly she’s plotted it and how well the characters are drawn until that extraordinary chapter 32.
© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni