Gilded Age

S. & S. Jun. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9781451640472. $25. F
McMillan's debut weaves Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth into modern-day Cleveland's preeminent Shaker Heights, where wealthy families have old roots and tightly knit, occasionally toxic, social circles. Ellie Hart comes back to Cleveland fresh from a failed marriage and a stint in rehab. Except for her beauty, she has few resources with which to support herself. Her friend, an unnamed narrator, recommends that she remarry immediately, but as Ellie bounces among wealthy men, she always returns to Selden, the professor she truly loves. But he, ultimately, will not have her, and this leads to Ellie's undoing.
VERDICT McMillan cleverly uses Wharton's classic novel to draw parallels between the social mores of two starkly different centuries. While at times the characters' viewpoints on sex and gender roles seem jarring and antiquated, this is an honest, if cynical, critique of feminist progress. An engrossing first novel that will appeal to readers of Sheila Kohler and Susan Rebecca White. [See Prepub Alert, 12/19/11.]
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