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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (3,432 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Edith Wharton Narrator: Barbara Caruso Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781464029271
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The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature, Edith Wharton stands among the finest writers of early twentieth-century America. In The Custom of the Country, Wharton’s scathing social commentary is on full display through the beautiful and manipulative Undine Spragg. When Undine convinces her nouveau riche parents to move to New York, she quickly injects herself into high society. But even a well-to-do husband isn’t enough for Undine, whose overwhelming lust for wealth proves to be her undoing.n

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Edith Wharton’s finest achievement.”

    Elizabeth Hardwick

  • An Entertainment Weekly Pick for 12 Books to Ease Your Downton Abbey Withdrawl

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brendan | 2/20/2014

    " Edith Wharton excels at writing a compelling book about a hugely unlikeable character who is determined not to experience any inner change or personal growth. Wharton picks away at the grasping consumerism of her peers with such precision that it was a relief to realize people were irredeemably selfish in the early twentieth century, and this isn't a new phenomenon. Her thesis that the "custom of the country," where men don't allow women into their business/inner lives, thus preventing happiness for either sex, certainly sparked a lot of thought and one-sided conversations where I recounted the plot for anyone who would listen. I don't know who I would recommend this book to, since Undine Spragg is a pretty hateful (albeit sympathetic?) person. But for those who can handle Wharton's pitch-black take on life, dig in! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kirstie Warr | 2/20/2014

    " This book was an interesting read. As a classic, it offers a different view of the world. It is the story of Undine Spragg, a upper middle class girl who will stop at nothing to climb the social ladder. Her escapades in the social world of eighteenth century New York attack the institution of marriage. Undine uses marriage and divorce as a tool for her success. The character of Undine is so absolutely nauseating, I loved to hate her. Reading it was so interesting because the characterization was so amazing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tamara Williamson | 2/11/2014

    " I loved this book, even though the main character is a total witch. But watching her manipulate her way to the top is fascinating. Kind of like the movie "All About Eve." I wrote my undergrad thesis on this and another Edith Wharton novel and I analyzed how Edith Wharton felt about/portrayed marriage. Needless to say, in this novel, Wharton is a complete skeptic about marriage. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patty | 2/10/2014

    " Just another great book. Read it!!! Although I can't say I like Undine, you won't forget her. I know many call this Wharton's best, but I rank this below House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Helen | 2/8/2014

    " Loved this book! Truly a classic in that it is completely relevant today as it was the day it was written. The themes of social status and superficiality are so true in my town. One wonders that Ms. Wharton did not live here, with status symbols and physical beauty being more important than the time you spend with your child or intelligence and the thought that you could use your brain. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jasmine Teed | 2/8/2014

    " The main character is horrifying but I couldn't put it down, couldn't stop wondering what would happen next! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tocotin | 2/7/2014

    " I have to reread this book every once in a while, and today was the day. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Carol Harrison | 2/5/2014

    " I kept wanting to give up on this book but saw it through to the end. It's a bit agonizing to read--the main character, Undine, is like a caricature of a shallow, narcissistic woman, and keeps making decisions that affect other people's lives. Glad to be finished! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diana | 2/5/2014

    " I don't think I've ever read something that focuses on someone so completely selfish and egocentric. Talk about a 'social climber'! It seems that occasionally she gets a glimpse of reality and sees past her own nose but still, she never seems to grow up. To me, a very sad life in spite of the luxury that Endine surrounds herself with. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jacqueline | 2/5/2014

    " I took awhile to think about this book. Wharton was interested in the changes taking place in family systems during her lifetime. She identifies traditional marriage as a European custom, which places the family at the center of decision making, and people thinking about how decisions about who to marry and how to live in the way they will effect the family over many years. The American pattern however is to view marriage in the context of personal pleasure and immediate fulfillment. She nailed it, before the first world war. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Meri | 2/2/2014

    " A good book, but not one of her best New York novels. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heidi Carreon | 1/31/2014

    " I gotta hand it to Edith Wharton. She knows how to create a protagonist I'd love to hate. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurajsouthwick | 1/30/2014

    " Good, but quite a bit angrier than her other New York novels, probably because it was earlier. The protagonist has no redeeming qualities. EW definitely developed more complex characters as her writing evolved. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Morgan Higginson | 1/23/2014

    " Started out slow but turned out to be great. The heroine is impossible to like but you have to see what she will do next. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eric Taub | 1/17/2014

    " Meet literary sociopath Undine Spragg. Unforgettable. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becky | 1/15/2014

    " A tale of a social climber reminiscent of Scarlett O'hara. Even though a 100 years have passed, the social structure described by Wharton were still frightenly relevant. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jillian Kathryn | 1/14/2014

    " i mean, it's no Ethan Frome. Social commentary about those social climbing bitches of her time. A lot more dramatic and entertaining than I expected. Worth a read, but be willing to deal with some loathsome but lovable characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pat | 1/2/2014

    " Great idea having the chronology in the beginning. The humor escapes me but compare to 21st century "celebrities" and "social climbers" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Philip | 12/11/2013

    " I didn't like the heroin, Ondine. As my creative writing prof told me, in this case there must be something else going. Here it is barely the description of the times, although I prefer James for this. Still, most interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becky | 11/29/2013

    " A tale of a social climber reminiscent of Scarlett O'hara. Even though a 100 years have passed, the social structure described by Wharton were still frightenly relevant. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Larissa | 11/28/2013

    " I enjoyed this. The characters were interesting and Wharton is very good at bringing the reader into their world. I found it very sad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lael Jacobs | 11/19/2013

    " Wharton manages the impressive feat of writing a riveting novel about a character for whom we feel absolutely no sympathy. This novel was dazzlingly well-written and deeply engaging. I despised Undine--along with many of the other characters--but it was great fun to read about her. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne | 9/14/2013

    " Supremely entertaining. I think all women have a little of the "heroine" in them. A modern woman who believes society owes her everything. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sherri | 8/14/2013

    " I try to read one or two "classics" each year. this one for me was just"meh". Not awful, but not something I really looked forward to reading every day. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diane | 8/1/2013

    " I dislike Undine intensely and what she has done to the people in her life, but I suppose it is also their fault for enabling her. Good writing, though. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Debbie | 4/5/2013

    " I can't decided if I would say I "enjoyed" this book. It was a good & engaging read, but the main character was definitely not likeable. I always find it interesting to read aboutcustoms from earlier times, but the meanness, self-centerdness & cruelty of some of the characters really got to me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Casey | 3/23/2013

    " Shades of an early 20th Century Danielle Steele but good Edith none-the-less. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christina Dudley | 2/8/2013

    " The adventures of social climber Undine Spragg from Apex City. Quintessential Wharton and a great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 11/9/2012

    " Good old gloomy Edith Wharton! You can count on her for unhappy, unfulfilled characters who struggle against a fate of never being quite rich enough. Always well written and readable. I love this era of literature...Snobbery and vanity without the double negatives! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kelly | 11/7/2012

    " Edith Wharton is always good. I didn't think the writing, story, or characters were as compelling as the other novels I've read of hers (Age of Innocence, House of Mirth, Mother's Recompense) but I still appreciated the message and the nuances. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nytetyger | 11/2/2012

    " A wonderful book about a young lady who thinks herself above others, and who will never ever be satisfied with what she gets because she obviously deserves so much more. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chaven | 8/28/2012

    " Wharton is one of my favorites. Book unfolds like a soap opera. Undine is a bit of a Scarlett O'Hara figure, with a very similar ending. I never hear people talk about this one, but it's as good as Mirth & Innocence. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jfajgenbaum | 5/19/2012

    " Reading this for book club. Liking it a lot. Reminds me of The Razor's Edge. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jillian Kathryn | 11/17/2011

    " i mean, it's no Ethan Frome. Social commentary about those social climbing bitches of her time. A lot more dramatic and entertaining than I expected. Worth a read, but be willing to deal with some loathsome but lovable characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Debbie | 8/13/2011

    " I can't decided if I would say I "enjoyed" this book. It was a good & engaging read, but the main character was definitely not likeable. I always find it interesting to read aboutcustoms from earlier times, but the meanness, self-centerdness & cruelty of some of the characters really got to me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 6/25/2011

    " I enjoyed this book. Good writing with a indulgent heroine. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lbsantini | 6/22/2011

    " To use Undine's own words, "Well, I never. . .!" As in, I have never met a character who I wanted so badly to slap, who I wanted to see rot in shack while taunted by children. Undine Spragg makes Emma Bovary seem mildly annoying. A classy beach read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sloane | 6/1/2011

    " I LOVE this not so well known book by Wharton. I seriously could not put it down. What a fascinating protagonist.
    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Libby | 4/18/2011

    " How could anyone possibly be as shallow as Undine Spragg? She got the unhappiness she deserved. I read this after Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which the author recommended in her notes at the end. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon | 4/12/2011

    " I know this is said to be her best, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Age of Innocents. It doesn't have the nuances of her other books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 3/21/2011

    " what a great novel. class and social standing revealed in it's vilest form. a wharton must read. a superbly vacuous, selfish, cruel and heartless character created that i am sure wharton recognized in the newly invented elite of NY. [contrasted with the old established aristocratic families.] "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tocotin | 3/9/2011

    " I have to reread this book every once in a while, and today was the day. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kim (vnfan) | 3/1/2011

    " I'm not sure there has ever been a villain quite like Undine Spragg. Absolutely no redeeming qualities.

    And yet, this book is one of the best I have ever read.

    Ever. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Courtney | 1/27/2011

    " UGHHHH! I CANNOT STAND UNDINE. But it was still a good book :) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gwenyth | 1/27/2011

    " This is the first thing I have read by Edith Wharton, and I really liked it! I want to call it something like Vanity Fair crossed with Somerset Maugham. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/6/2011

    " This book illustrates the consequences of conspicuous consumption and explores marriage as a woman's profession. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heidi | 12/28/2010

    " Scarlett O'Hara x 1,000 = Undine Spragg. "

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About the Author
Author Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton (1862–1937) was born in New York and is best known for her stories of life among the upper-class society into which she was born. She was educated privately at home and in Europe. In 1894 she began writing fiction, and her novel The House of Mirth established her as a leading writer. Her novels The Age of Innocence and Old New York were each awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She was the first woman to receive that honor. In 1929 she was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction.

About the Narrator

Barbara Caruso, winner of twenty-two Earphones Awards for narration, is an accomplished actress and critically acclaimed audiobook narrator. A graduate of London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she was a featured player in the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has played starring roles on Broadway and in theaters across the country. She won the Alexander Scourby Reader of the Year Award for her performances of young adult fiction and has more than one hundred audiobook narrations to her credit. She has won twenty-two AudioFile Earphones Awards.