East Side/West Side in The Custom of the Country
Edith Wharton's novel The Custom of the Country is set in New York City at the end of the Gilded Age. It was a time when the established families who had ruled society for generations were being overtaken by a new social class whose prestige was based on money rather than tradition. The novel centers on Wharton's most unusual heroine, Undine Spragg, as she navigates the marriage customs of the day. Her upward mobility can be traced in the geography of Manhattan. As the novel opens, Undine and her parents are living in an expensive West Side hotel. From her bedroom, she looks along 72nd Street toward Central Park and dreams of the elegant world of Fifth Avenue--the East Side--just across the Park.
On our trip to "Edith Wharton's New York City" in May, we will have a guided walking tour of the exclusive East Side that drew Undine Spragg and other Wharton heroines. At 70th Street and Fifth Avenue we will visit the mansion of Henry Clay Frick, one of the newly rich business magnates of Wharton's era, and see his unparalleled collection of art. We'll then have lunch at the Boathouse in Central Park and afterward walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art up Fifth Avenue
Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library invites you to read The Custom of the Country and join in a book discussion on Saturday, February 15, at 1:00 p.m. in the Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room in the Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Avenue. The event is free and open to the public; street parking around the library is free on Saturdays.