Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Buccaneers

I'm working my way through a biography of Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee, and it's very slow going. Part of the problem is that Lee assumes the reader has actually read ALL of Wharton's books - from her tracts on architecture and gardening to all of her novels and short stories. I've read pretty much all of her major novels and most of her short stories, but I've never read her non-fiction bits.

The one novel that I hadn't read is the one that Wharton didn't actually finish - The Buccaneers. She died before she finished the book, leaving a summary of what she planned to have happen to the characters. A modern author completed the book for publication in the early '90s.

It's immediately apparent when you get to the part where Wharton leaves off and the new author takes over. The voice and pacing and characters change perceptibly.

The story centers around a group of American young women who come from money that is too "new" for New York society, so one family's governess suggests that they all try a season in London. The girls take London by storm and end up marrying various members of the aristocracy and government, not all of them happily. The title of the book comes from one of the British husband, who compares his wife and her American friends to buccaneers taking over London and getting what they want.

Despite the things I didn't like about the book - the noticeable change in authors, the change in tone and style - I really did like the story and was upset when it ended. I wanted to know what happened next.

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