This is a story of two scheming, penniless Americans set amongst Europe’s wealthy community.
A story based on a mutually-beneficial mercenary premise. Two penniless Americans, Nick Lansing and Susy Branch, decide that they will use the gifts and goodwill of their wealthy friends from their marriage, to live the life they want, for one year. The plan involved using the gifts, money and invitations to honeymoon and visit with European friends to fund their livelihood, all food, accommodation and entertainment being taken care of at no expense to themselves. They had agreed that should a better marital opportunity come along for either of them, their marriage could be dissolved on good grounds allowing for the person to move on. It sounded flawless and, in the beginning, seemed to go to plan.
Wharton has written her tale with the pace, eloquence and style that is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby. Her talent with words provides imagery that drips of opulence. She satirises the shallowness and flippancy of the wealthy as the tale traverses several European countries, putting a mirror to the similarities between characters in each. She then weaves the reality of personal emotions such as deceit, anger, disappointment, kindness and love throughout the circumstances as they arise. This issues are confounded by the differing ability of Nick and Susan to comprehend the consequences of their parasitic enterprise.
This is undoubtedly a morality tale and the ending becomes obvious relatively early in the piece. Although it is set in the past, the underlying message about, trust, communication and the effort required in problem resolution within a relationship translates easily to the present day. The subtle humour in many of Wharton’s descriptions of characters and situations is both timely and skilful.
Obviously, a talented wordsmith, Wharton has written an easy-to-read tale that leaves the reader examining their relationships, the society in which they live, and questioning the layers of personality that has been presented to them. If you enjoy society romances and appreciate the use of satire in character development, you will find this book a good addition to your library.
Reviewed by Leanne Caune
Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Re-released: August 2018