Although short Summer is an interesting read.
Feelings and actions are obliquely revealed or hinted at, so much so that many of the decisive events that our ‘heroine’ Charity experiences are only alluded to or described in an indirect fashion.
Because of this, the changing dynamics between the various characters can at times be hard to follow or understand. Yet, Wharton’s narration does render, withan almost painful accuracy, those emotions and thoughts that can align the reader to Charity’s state of mind.
There is a sense of sadness and growing unease that makes this novella into a rather distressing reading experience. While the story examines class, gender, and desire in an intriguing manner it also presents us with many unhappy scenarios and characters who are selfish, greedy, and snobbish.
Wharton deftly illustrates how Charity’s background (the fact that she comes from “up the mountain” ) not only negatively affects her reputation—that is the way she is perceived by others—but it is also the cause of her own sense of inferiority. Almost incongruously to this deeply ingrained feeling of shame, and the fear that she is like her mother (a poor woman of ill reputation), Charity holds the fervent belief that she is superior to others and deserving of an exciting and self-fulfilling life.
These contrasting beliefs are the likely reason why Charity denies herself happiness and in self-denial she bottles up her love for Lucius Harney.
The story is not a happy one, and as Charity mirrors her mother’s path, readers will find the turn of events to be almost inevitable ones. Perhaps a slower narrative could have examined with even more depth Charity and her story, as the narrative in Summer quickly moves from scene to scene without much room to digest the causes and consequences of Charity’s actions…
My rating: ★★★✰✰ 3.25 stars