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Inspired by a young man Edith Wharton met during her war relief work in France, A Son at the Front(1923) opens in Paris on July 30, 1914, as Europe totters on thebrink of war. Expatriate American painter John Campton, whose only son George, having been born in Paris, must report for duty in the French army, struggles to keep his son away from the front while grappling with Inspired by a young man Edith Wharton met during her war relief work in France, A Son at the Front(1923) opens in Paris on July 30, 1914, as Europe totters on thebrink of war. Expatriate American painter John Campton, whose only son George, having been born in Paris, must report for duty in the French army, struggles to keep his son away from the front while grappling with the moral implications of his actions. A poignant meditation on art and possession, fidelity and responsibility, A Son at the Front is Wharton’s indelible take on the war novel.


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Inspired by a young man Edith Wharton met during her war relief work in France, A Son at the Front(1923) opens in Paris on July 30, 1914, as Europe totters on thebrink of war. Expatriate American painter John Campton, whose only son George, having been born in Paris, must report for duty in the French army, struggles to keep his son away from the front while grappling with Inspired by a young man Edith Wharton met during her war relief work in France, A Son at the Front(1923) opens in Paris on July 30, 1914, as Europe totters on thebrink of war. Expatriate American painter John Campton, whose only son George, having been born in Paris, must report for duty in the French army, struggles to keep his son away from the front while grappling with the moral implications of his actions. A poignant meditation on art and possession, fidelity and responsibility, A Son at the Front is Wharton’s indelible take on the war novel.

30 review for A Son at the Front: A Library of America eBook Classic

  1. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    Edith Wharton lived in Paris during World War I, and with her incredible talent she paints a picture of the city and the people, and how they adapted to the the changes the war imposed on everyone and everything. One young man goes off to war and his parents pride for his bravery and horrible fear that he may not return is a scene played out countless times with families everywhere. Wharton was a correspondent and a homefront volunteer and her insights and descriptions give the reader a feel for Edith Wharton lived in Paris during World War I, and with her incredible talent she paints a picture of the city and the people, and how they adapted to the the changes the war imposed on everyone and everything. One young man goes off to war and his parents pride for his bravery and horrible fear that he may not return is a scene played out countless times with families everywhere. Wharton was a correspondent and a homefront volunteer and her insights and descriptions give the reader a feel for the emotions of the time and the people who lived through it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    I don’t believe that Edith Wharton wrote this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Edith Wharton’s pet subjects — failed marriages, social minefields, and stymied dreams — play out against the backdrop of the Great War. As always, Wharton’s prose beautifully combines criticism with compassion, lyricism with clarity, and subtlety with wrenching drama. I found myself re-reading passages and just sighing. The set up for this novel hooked me before I even read it: In the summer of 1914, a divorced expatriate father living in Paris is anticipating a month’s travel with his son, Geo Edith Wharton’s pet subjects — failed marriages, social minefields, and stymied dreams — play out against the backdrop of the Great War. As always, Wharton’s prose beautifully combines criticism with compassion, lyricism with clarity, and subtlety with wrenching drama. I found myself re-reading passages and just sighing. The set up for this novel hooked me before I even read it: In the summer of 1914, a divorced expatriate father living in Paris is anticipating a month’s travel with his son, George. Adding a rosy glow to the prospect is the father’s recent success as an artist after years of struggle, which means he’ll finally be able to support his son financially. After all, he wants George to be “independent” and not have to work in some soul-destroying business such as the son's stepfather owns — such a nice touch to combine class snobbery and whiff-of-Bohemian artistic snobbery! Anyway, war breaks out and prevents the father/son vacation, but the big crisis is that George can be drafted into the French army because he was born while his parents were visiting France. Oh, the twists of fate. This danger forces the ex-husband, ex-wife, and her second husband (who essentially reared George) into an uneasy collaboration to protect the son, without his knowing it, from active duty. The three parents scramble and scheme to pull every string they have to get George behind a desk, but, to everyone’s amazement and horror, George enlists. The mother is devastated; the fathers are secretly proud. (And the reader isn't surprised as that's the title of the novel.) The bulk of the story concerns the agonies of parents waiting on the home front, a situation more complex because of the divorce and the weirdness of being foreigners in a country at war. Wharton explores the human psyche with such unrelenting perception that it’s almost painful. So many times I wanted to reach into the book and shake the characters even as I ached for them. You yearn for these people to rise above their petty concerns, but, as in real life, people usually fall short. However, Wharton is a genius at portraying the moments of connection that offer transcendence. For instance, both men know the wife isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and needs to be handled carefully (though they can’t say it aloud), both have a father’s love for George, and both have a conflicted admiration for George’s willingness to fight. I wanted the characters to burst into soulful, lushly orchestrated duets about their differing roles, but Wharton doesn’t provide musical theatre, just realistic insight, and so the result is more exploratory than cathartic. Edith Wharton lived in Paris during the Great War and drove an ambulance to and from the front, so she writes with nuance and authority on the issues of being American in Paris during the years before the U.S. entered the war. Mostly, though, I enjoyed a personal and family saga that gives insight into both a vanished social context and universal experiences.

  4. 5 out of 5

    El

    [image error] (Courtesy: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library) Way back in forgotten times, when the world was still all black and white, Edith Wharton lived in Paris. She was in Paris during World War I and through some connections was actually one of the few foreigners to be able to be on the front lines for her work as a war correspondent for Scribner's Magazine. In addition to her correspondent work she also did oodles for refugees of the war, found [image error] (Courtesy: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library) Way back in forgotten times, when the world was still all black and white, Edith Wharton lived in Paris. She was in Paris during World War I and through some connections was actually one of the few foreigners to be able to be on the front lines for her work as a war correspondent for Scribner's Magazine. In addition to her correspondent work she also did oodles for refugees of the war, founding hostels and hospitals for the infirm. She was a regular do-gooder and received the Legion of Honor for her efforts. ♥ A Son at the Front is one of the rare books by Wharton that deals specifically with the war. (The other being its precursor, The Marne, 1918, which I have not read or, honestly, even seen.) It's not that much of a removal from her other books, however. Readers aren't taken to the front line for this book, we don't get to see the action. We do get to see the experience through the eyes of George Campton's father, John, who is forced to give up the idea of traveling with George due to the outbreak of the war. Though American, George was born in France while his parents were visiting, and therefore became the property of the French army. Considered an anti-war novel, A Son at the Front is the story told from a parent's perspective on war and covers the pride, the fear, the horror, and the guilt that comes with it. In classic Wharton fashion there are different layers of wonderfulness here. George's parents are divorced, so not only do we share John's feelings and emotions, but also those of his ex-wife, Julia, and her current husband. The complexities between those relationships set this book apart from other war novels of the same period.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    In this story of the home front, Paris, in World War I, we are introduced to the son who becomes a soldier, against his parents wishes. Those parents are divorced, the father an artist and the mother remarried to a rich banker. I found the portrayals of the two fathers the most interesting here. Wharton’s artist is a stereotypical artist of the working, non-genius type. He thinks about his work when he shouldn’t be, he wastes a lot of time, and he gets involved in situations to massage his ego. In this story of the home front, Paris, in World War I, we are introduced to the son who becomes a soldier, against his parents wishes. Those parents are divorced, the father an artist and the mother remarried to a rich banker. I found the portrayals of the two fathers the most interesting here. Wharton’s artist is a stereotypical artist of the working, non-genius type. He thinks about his work when he shouldn’t be, he wastes a lot of time, and he gets involved in situations to massage his ego. The banker father is played much more broadly. He is shown as caring and capable, though appears bumbling at times. The banker is there to learn from. I found the descriptions of the events in the city during wartime interesting in the kinds of things that went on, and what appears to be the same as normal times – most everything – as well as what is different – the topic of conversations is the war. It reminded me of the way much of what we talk about now in general conversation relates directly to COVID. Not a great book, but I enjoyed the historical aspects.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jayne

    the first Edith Wharton novel with a character that I disliked so much it colored my judgement of the entire novel, John Campton, in my opinion, is a self-centered and disagreeable character. If Wharton intended this kind of reaction, I would consider the novel a success .. If not, I will just retreat to 'Ethan Frome'...and delight in the obvious. the first Edith Wharton novel with a character that I disliked so much it colored my judgement of the entire novel, John Campton, in my opinion, is a self-centered and disagreeable character. If Wharton intended this kind of reaction, I would consider the novel a success .. If not, I will just retreat to 'Ethan Frome'...and delight in the obvious.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I think what pissed me off most about this book is Campton randomly taking up an interest in clay at the very end, but trying to act as if he's liked it this whole time. I think what pissed me off most about this book is Campton randomly taking up an interest in clay at the very end, but trying to act as if he's liked it this whole time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    John Campton is an American artist who has long lived in Paris and become famous for his portraiture. It is August 1914 and his son, George, is arriving so the two of them can travel together to Spain. John has felt estranged from his beloved son since he and his wife divorced and she has remarried a banker who has actually raised his son. His jealousy of this colors many of his actions throughout the novel as he refuses to see that Mr. Grant cares as much for his son as he does himself. Almost a John Campton is an American artist who has long lived in Paris and become famous for his portraiture. It is August 1914 and his son, George, is arriving so the two of them can travel together to Spain. John has felt estranged from his beloved son since he and his wife divorced and she has remarried a banker who has actually raised his son. His jealousy of this colors many of his actions throughout the novel as he refuses to see that Mr. Grant cares as much for his son as he does himself. Almost as soon as the young man arrives, war breaks out and all of their plans must be canceled. Because of a twist of fate, the young George was born in France and now is subject to being called up for duty. Campton and Grant, the stepfather, begin to do everything they can think of to keep him from serving in the trenches at the front, and his mother, Julia is nearly hysterical over the thought that her son may die. Unbeknownst to all of them, George realizes what they are doing and manages to transfer to an infantry battalion almost immediately but keeps this knowledge hidden from his parents. A Son at the Front is not the usual expectation of an Edith Wharton novel although it is an examination of society. In this case, it takes a close look at all the people who are left behind especially the parents who are now paying for the war and its ideals in the flesh of their own bodies, so to speak. Many are doing what Campton and the Grants have tried, anything to keep their progeny out of the line of fire. Others are silently and stoically waiting for the inevitable word of their loss. This is a novel that looks closely at the ways the rest of society dealt with the upheaval the war caused in all lives at the time. Edith Wharton was known to believe that Culture and Beauty could save the world and that theme runs throughout. She paints an interesting picture of the way American/French society conducted itself throughout the war years. The story of John Campton and his son, George, goes through many iterations. From jealousy over his relationship with the stepfather that he, John, comes to admire, to debilitating fear for his life, to pride in his determination to serve France we watch him grow to accept the inevitability of the end. I can understand why this was not well received when published. It has none of the glamour of earlier books and none of the "war action" of the memoirs and novels being published at that time. It all takes place behind the front. Still, it is a true gem of human personality.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Allen Hines

    It is indeed a shame that this wonderful novel by such a great writer is so little known today. I have read many of the World War I era novels, but I had never hard of A Son at the Front until I chanced across it and I am glad I did. Instead of being the typical 1920s novel about the war or a soldier in it, this novel focuses instead on the families back home. Campton, a now famous artist, whose ex-wife remarried a rich banker before his art took fame, is concerned about his only son George, bein It is indeed a shame that this wonderful novel by such a great writer is so little known today. I have read many of the World War I era novels, but I had never hard of A Son at the Front until I chanced across it and I am glad I did. Instead of being the typical 1920s novel about the war or a soldier in it, this novel focuses instead on the families back home. Campton, a now famous artist, whose ex-wife remarried a rich banker before his art took fame, is concerned about his only son George, being sent to the front. Campton, and the step-father, who despite his remoteness, cares deeply for his step-son, conspire to keep George in a safe headquarters job, away from the trenches. Along the way a panoply of other characters appear, giving a rich depiction to the social life in France as the war continued to rage and expand. Despite his family's efforts, George feels the young man's need to serve in the action, and manages be assigned to a mission at the front, where he is badly wounded. His step father and father rush to return him to a hospital and recover, stunned to find the boy had been involved with an older married woman. While the book's ending is predictable, and the weakest part of the story, overall this is a very good work. There are many rich sentences and passages that presage how good of a writer Wharton was. The fact that Campton is such a disagreeable character adds tremendous realism to the novel. Not every character is heroic in real life, and too many novels are too idealistic. Anyone who enjoys the literature of the first world war will enjoy A Son at the Front and it really is a shame this book is not more widely known and read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dell Taylor

    My rating: 3.5 A compelling story about the effects of war on those who are left behind. This is Wharton's anti-war statement, but she does it in the guise of a novel which raises questions/issues to ponder. Not well received at the time of its publication, it certainly does provide a thought provoking look back in time. My rating: 3.5 A compelling story about the effects of war on those who are left behind. This is Wharton's anti-war statement, but she does it in the guise of a novel which raises questions/issues to ponder. Not well received at the time of its publication, it certainly does provide a thought provoking look back in time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Sutch

    A fine novel, under appreciated for too many years (even now, almost twenty years after its republication). Wharton writes about the part of World War I she knew the best, the life at the rear of the conflict, in Paris, including the charity work, the many, many people who continually receive news that their sons have died in the conflict, and artistic and social life. The editor of this edition, in her introduction, says that in this novel Wharton lays out her idea of the role of intellectuals A fine novel, under appreciated for too many years (even now, almost twenty years after its republication). Wharton writes about the part of World War I she knew the best, the life at the rear of the conflict, in Paris, including the charity work, the many, many people who continually receive news that their sons have died in the conflict, and artistic and social life. The editor of this edition, in her introduction, says that in this novel Wharton lays out her idea of the role of intellectuals in wartime and, I think, this is partly true. But I also think she misreads the text by using as her main example the "Friends of French Art" charity as depicted in the book. Much of Wharton's subtle satire is, in fact, directed at this group even before it switches hands and aims toward the end. The artists and intellectuals surrounding the protagonist Campton, she makes clear, are more interested in following fads and fashions than in actually doing war work (and this includes the protagonist, who is not shown wholly in a positive light). It is this tension in the plot that provides the story arc and the eventual shifting of Campton's thoughts and opinions about the war as he experiences the agony of having his son serving at the front. This is not a novel that is on a par with some of Wharton's others, but it is a good book that deals with issues that don't often appear in the "canon" of World War I literature.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Resa

    Very rarely do I come along such a beautiful novel. I loved the author's style. She was very clear and it flowed well. This novel is about a father's priorities for his son, but once he enters WW11, those priorities explode and the father is devastated. The father is very pessimistic and anti-war and his attitude reminds me of the current feelings concern the Iraqi war. I am in love with this one :) Very rarely do I come along such a beautiful novel. I loved the author's style. She was very clear and it flowed well. This novel is about a father's priorities for his son, but once he enters WW11, those priorities explode and the father is devastated. The father is very pessimistic and anti-war and his attitude reminds me of the current feelings concern the Iraqi war. I am in love with this one :)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    This did not quite have the punch that I was hoping for. Fully cognizant that almost every man in France between the ages of 18 and 40 died in World War I, I was prepared for a sad outcome. While well written, it seemed like the characters were kept at a distance. You never really get to know them or care about them. It did not even provoke a tear at the end, a requisite for me to give four or five stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    I love Edith Wharton. There are not enough stars to reflect what a beautiful book this is. I wish I could have experienced the gift of being in a conversation with Edith Wharton. She is, in my view, right there with Dickens, Garcia Marquez, and, yes, Steinbeck. I love them all, and am so grateful they took the time to write. The world, certainly my life, is better place for their work.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Angelina

    I liked her characters (for the most part) and her plot, but something about her writing just does not grip me. I've been coming back to this book off and on for over a year, and I've finally managed to plow through it. Still, I'd take this over "House of Mirth" ANY DAY. I liked her characters (for the most part) and her plot, but something about her writing just does not grip me. I've been coming back to this book off and on for over a year, and I've finally managed to plow through it. Still, I'd take this over "House of Mirth" ANY DAY.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christine M. Kelly

    Heartbreaking and Real I last read Wharton in college. Found this novel by chance and remembered how I loved Ethan Frome. A perfect picture of a father's love and struggle with the man his son becomes. Too many memorable lines to cite just one. Much of a time, but not dated. Heartbreaking and Real I last read Wharton in college. Found this novel by chance and remembered how I loved Ethan Frome. A perfect picture of a father's love and struggle with the man his son becomes. Too many memorable lines to cite just one. Much of a time, but not dated.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    It takes a while to get into the story since the writing style is very different than that of modern writers. But I am a fan of Edith Wharton and she does a good job of depicting Europe, World War I and the friends and family on the home front.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia

    Very dry read, but overall an okay read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read the free version available on Gutenberg. The publisher's description calls this Wharton's "anti-war masterpiece." Really? I didn't find it to be all that anti-war, it was, and it was certainly anti-rich folk who run the world in a stupid way and cause pointless death for their own petty amusements (her basic theme in everything). Anyway, I have lots of thoughts on this - and I really didn't like it much at the beginning because I thought it all too simple and predictable and boring. I've r I read the free version available on Gutenberg. The publisher's description calls this Wharton's "anti-war masterpiece." Really? I didn't find it to be all that anti-war, it was, and it was certainly anti-rich folk who run the world in a stupid way and cause pointless death for their own petty amusements (her basic theme in everything). Anyway, I have lots of thoughts on this - and I really didn't like it much at the beginning because I thought it all too simple and predictable and boring. I've read enough Wharton, that I should have known better. The main characters were all so well done, and the somewhat unlikeable Campton struggled and grew and changed on pretty much every page. He starts out thinking that he's better than the other rich folk in his ex-patriot circle, but its made clear to the reader that he is every bit as shallow and self centered. And then, instead of just making him a jerk, he starts to realize it. And he tries to do better -- and has a real hard time. And then Wharton goes on to show all the problems that crop up with charity work. The petty squabbles and competitions of those who are trying to run the programs for their own glory, and sometimes ineffectiveness of those who are doing the work for the best of reasons, but are simply incompetent. I guess this is why I've come to love Wharton - nothing is every black and white. Nothing is simple. The wealthy Mr. Mayhew, is a shining example. Starts out as a delegate for the Peace Commission, then he milks a (not very) harrowing experience with the German army, becomes a chief agent to get the US to get involved. To accomplish his ends, he and his other incredibly wealthy friends take over a charity that was doing excellent work (albeit in a small and quiet way), and basically turns it into a club for the rich who want to feel that they are doing something. I think perhaps one of the funniest lines was when Mr. Mayhew, who has no actually employment and never has, tells Compton how important it is that he (Mayhew) "rests" (or vacations) regularly so maintain his power to advocate for US involvement in the war. Its kind of like Peloton telling us that we need to buy their $1500.00 exercise bike, we owe it to ourselves to be our best selves. Was it Dove chocolate that had the advertising tag line that was something like, what have you done for yourself today? Somehow marketing has sold us the idea that we cannot be unselfish until we have first been selfish. Hmm. So, was this an anti-war novel? Well, Wharton in no way disrespects the troops on the ground, their sacrifices or their ideals. Its clear that she has nothing but admiration for the dedicated men dying on the ground (and the dedication of the families supporting them at home). She certainly finds some of them naive, but she doesn't mock them. Do the 'leaders' get taken down? Not so much the military leaders -- but the government bureaucracies and the rich folks that lean on them -- they surely don't get any love. That's part of the complexity of Campton -- he doesn't mind using his ex-wife's $$ to wring benefits for his wounded son, but he also realizes how wrong the whole system is. He just decides he doesn't care. Wharton was in France during WWI, she did a lot of real work with the Red Cross (according to a documentary I saw). She saw the raw side of the war first hand.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

    (My rating is more of a 3.5) One of Wharton’s less popular novels, the book was apparently out of print for many years until the Northern Illinois University Press put out a paperback edition with a useful introduction by Shari Benstock in 1995. I guess the book was still not popular, as I found my copy in a $1 bin. In many respects, it is a strange book. Although the topic, of a family with a son in the army during the horrific first world war, seems familiar enough to gain a readership, the deta (My rating is more of a 3.5) One of Wharton’s less popular novels, the book was apparently out of print for many years until the Northern Illinois University Press put out a paperback edition with a useful introduction by Shari Benstock in 1995. I guess the book was still not popular, as I found my copy in a $1 bin. In many respects, it is a strange book. Although the topic, of a family with a son in the army during the horrific first world war, seems familiar enough to gain a readership, the details of the story probably didn’t attract American readers. The family depicted are American ex-pats in Paris: a father who has become a successful artist, his divorced wife who re-married a very wealthy and prominent banker, and the titular son, who is required to join the French army due to his birth on French soil. The main conflict arises from his parents’ attempts to keep him safe back in headquarters rather than in the trenches, nominally due to his weak lungs. The son’s view, only gradually revealed, is very different. The novel is good at exploring the psychology of the father, who is the protagonist, and in particular the conflict he feels between protecting his son at all costs and his knowledge that his son should do his part along with all the others who are suffering and dying. There is a parade of dead sons throughout the novel, from those of prominent citizens to those of the poor concierge in the father’s apartment building. He begins to question why they should suffer and not his own family, which is obviously in conflict with his desire to protect his son. The agonies of wealthy ex-pats in this peculiar situation (being Americans when the US was not yet in the war) probably did not speak to American readers very well. And when the novel came out, the interest in reading “war novels” was low (the introduction informs us). Nonetheless, the book is worth reading even if it is not Wharton’s best. She makes the wise artistic choice not to make the boy’s parents very sympathetic (though this may also have hurt sales). Even so, you can’t help sympathizing with their love and concern for their only son and understand the conflict between this and their evolving understanding of joint dedication and sacrifice. It is worth noting that Wharton was actually in Paris during this period and received awards from the French government in her work helping war refugees. She knew what the city was like and recreates people’s varying reactions to the horror, ranging from throwing themselves into war activities to becoming completely numb to deciding that “normal life should go on” and resuming their usual social activities. I also found it useful to be reminded how much people felt at the time that the German attacks were uncivilized and illegal, requiring a response to end all that. Of course, the novel displays no inkling that all that would not be ended, but it is useful to remember what people thought as they told themselves they were fighting the war to end all wars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    I can see why this novel is less popular than other Wharton novels. The main character is difficult to like and the world of Paris in WWI is not nearly as well drawn and dazzling as her New York novels. I will admit that I had a very difficult time keeping characters straight throughout this novel. Other than the main character and his son, others moved in and out through a fog and weren't particularly memorable. I did appreciate the story more and more as it went on though. While Campton is not I can see why this novel is less popular than other Wharton novels. The main character is difficult to like and the world of Paris in WWI is not nearly as well drawn and dazzling as her New York novels. I will admit that I had a very difficult time keeping characters straight throughout this novel. Other than the main character and his son, others moved in and out through a fog and weren't particularly memorable. I did appreciate the story more and more as it went on though. While Campton is not always a likable character, I think Wharton wrote a very real character who has some admirable qualities and also exhibits some miss judgement, prejudice, and unlikable qualities. His investment in how dramatically the war should be affecting all lives in contrast with much of the rest of his connections who find they are living as if nothing is happening is certainly a quality that reminds me of how very often we can ignore major world events or injustices because our own lives are unaffected. Wharton was certainly in the thick of the action surrounding WWI, so this is a world and era she knows well. I suspect that, were I to know many of the key French personalities of that era I would see reflections in many of her characters. I don't think I will ever enjoy Wharton's war novels as much as her society novels and stories, but I am learning to value them a great and thoughtful writing from someone who's work has endured.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Actually I didn't finish this; thus, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and 3 stars. It isn't a bad book at all; Edith Wharton writes too beautifully and with so much insight into people that she isn't going to have written a bad book. And all of her books move slowly with a great deal of character development and detailed settings and time periods. But this book just bored me. I can uderstand why it had been forgotten and out of publication for many years, and was not at all popular at the time Actually I didn't finish this; thus, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and 3 stars. It isn't a bad book at all; Edith Wharton writes too beautifully and with so much insight into people that she isn't going to have written a bad book. And all of her books move slowly with a great deal of character development and detailed settings and time periods. But this book just bored me. I can uderstand why it had been forgotten and out of publication for many years, and was not at all popular at the time she wrote it either. They felt that her readers were simply tired of the War and wanted to move on and that was the reason for the low readership. I don't think so. I was interested while I was actually reading it, but I could walk away from it for days at a time without wanting to pick it up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rod

    The war was three months old--three centuries. By virtue of some gift of adaptation which seemed forever to discredit human sensibility, people were already beginning to live into the monstrous idea of it, acquire its ways, speak its language, regard it as a thinkable, endurable, arrangeable fact; to eat it by day, and sleep on it--yes, and soundly--at night. The war went on; life went on... A really good--if lesser known--Wharton novel that captures great truths about war and how we adapt; father The war was three months old--three centuries. By virtue of some gift of adaptation which seemed forever to discredit human sensibility, people were already beginning to live into the monstrous idea of it, acquire its ways, speak its language, regard it as a thinkable, endurable, arrangeable fact; to eat it by day, and sleep on it--yes, and soundly--at night. The war went on; life went on... A really good--if lesser known--Wharton novel that captures great truths about war and how we adapt; fathers and sons; divorce and its legacy; and a bunch of things I'm not remembering right now, all tackled with Wharton's insightful and beautiful prose.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda Kenny

    WWI story of father and son I had to search for this book, hearing about it first in a course I took on WWI. Instead of being a story of a soldier son at the front, it tells the story of his family in Paris. Wharton brings together the struggle of divorced parents, the impact of the war on daily life, and in the forefront a father coming to terms with his son's decisions and his own art. I recommend it to anyone who reads Wharton these days or is a student of WWI? WWI story of father and son I had to search for this book, hearing about it first in a course I took on WWI. Instead of being a story of a soldier son at the front, it tells the story of his family in Paris. Wharton brings together the struggle of divorced parents, the impact of the war on daily life, and in the forefront a father coming to terms with his son's decisions and his own art. I recommend it to anyone who reads Wharton these days or is a student of WWI?

  25. 5 out of 5

    David

    A different perspective of the great war. I've never read a book about a divorced couples son going to war. What seemed almost a contest in concern. It also portrayed a mindset about war that was so different from now but she gave an insight into another time. How in the world could you get people into those trenches? I am now going to re-read Helprin's "A Soldier Of The Great War". A different perspective of the great war. I've never read a book about a divorced couples son going to war. What seemed almost a contest in concern. It also portrayed a mindset about war that was so different from now but she gave an insight into another time. How in the world could you get people into those trenches? I am now going to re-read Helprin's "A Soldier Of The Great War".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeslyn

    I had a hard time with this read - Campton Sr was so self-absorbed, oblivious to his own hypocrisy in his jealousy and bitterness toward Brant, and for the vast majority of the book was borderline (or not so borderline) repellant. A few moments of decency, but most of them were still clouded by his pettiness toward Mr. Brant. In the end, I just wanted it to be over. I wouldn't rate this as a "masterpiece" for Wharton, frankly. I had a hard time with this read - Campton Sr was so self-absorbed, oblivious to his own hypocrisy in his jealousy and bitterness toward Brant, and for the vast majority of the book was borderline (or not so borderline) repellant. A few moments of decency, but most of them were still clouded by his pettiness toward Mr. Brant. In the end, I just wanted it to be over. I wouldn't rate this as a "masterpiece" for Wharton, frankly.

  27. 5 out of 5

    MaryKate

    Set during WWI in Europe with an artistic back drop beginning in Montmarte, reading between the lines, the book has an antiwar theme, while the privileged continue as they have always but with the nuisance of war.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Review to follow.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    It has been a very long time since I read anything by Edith Wharton. This one surprised me, because it was so different in setting, plot, and atmosphere from the ones I have read. I downloaded it from Library of America, which often send out links to American short stories, and they remarked that A Son at the Front has gotten little attention. Written only a few years after WWI ended, this is the story of an American artist living in Paris whose son, because he was born in Paris even though h is It has been a very long time since I read anything by Edith Wharton. This one surprised me, because it was so different in setting, plot, and atmosphere from the ones I have read. I downloaded it from Library of America, which often send out links to American short stories, and they remarked that A Son at the Front has gotten little attention. Written only a few years after WWI ended, this is the story of an American artist living in Paris whose son, because he was born in Paris even though h is parents are both American, is considered French for the purposes of the draft. The father, along with some of the other main characters, undergoes a transformation in his thinking about the war as the book progresses. The writing was so evocative, the characters so nuanced, the descriptions of the war so vivid! Reading about the book after I finished it, I discovered that Wharton had lived in France before the war, and returned there shortly after France entered the war. After reading this, I want to read/reread more of her novels.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    I wasn't even aware that Edith Wharton, one of the very best writers of her era, wrote a novel about the Great War. It's fair to say that there's a good reason why The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth are familiar to any lover of classic fiction and A Son at the Front is not. Not that it's a bad novel. Wharton didn't do those, she was far too talented. However, she made some essential errors in this story, most notably with the choice of her protagonist, a selfish and largely dislikeable p I wasn't even aware that Edith Wharton, one of the very best writers of her era, wrote a novel about the Great War. It's fair to say that there's a good reason why The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth are familiar to any lover of classic fiction and A Son at the Front is not. Not that it's a bad novel. Wharton didn't do those, she was far too talented. However, she made some essential errors in this story, most notably with the choice of her protagonist, a selfish and largely dislikeable portrait painter named John Campton. A self-absorbed divorcée, Campton is blissfully unaware of the impending conflict. His sole recognition of the pervading fear in his adopted city of Paris is noticing the "war-funk" on the faces of those he paints, but can't believe that it will happen, even up until the day of the announcement. All he cares about is an upcoming holiday with his son George, who he hasn't seen much of in years due to the young man being educated abroad. This was another mistake by Wharton in my view; I understand that upper middle-class parents often had their children educated in the best schools overseas in those days, but the fact that he hardly even knows his son makes it hard to warm to him as a representative father fearing for the safety of his mobilisable son on the advent of war. Wharton made a brave decision to make Campton so essentially selfish, braver still for making no bones about the full extent of his aversion to sacrifice, which at the outset went far beyond his familial desire to keep his son out of the army: 'Secretly, too, he feared the demands that would be made on him if he once let himself be drawn into the network of war charities. Tiresome women would come and beg for money, or for pictures for bazaars ... it could only result in his turning out work that would injure his reputation and reduce his sales after the war.' Campton's ex-wife and her second husband, neither of which he has much respect for, are better placed to get George a cushy job far behind the frontline, yet he resents their interventions, even if they should manage to succeed where he has failed. Again, there is a dogged honesty to this, I can well imagine a bitter divorcée behaving this way, but it undercuts his love for his son. George has other ideas anyway, secretly manoeuvring himself into the trenches. Campton's expatriate friends, who he doesn't even like very much (another mark against him), volunteer for the war effort, working for the ambulance service, nursing and aiding refugees. Inevitably as the war continues and the sons and nephews of his associates begin to die, Campton begins to change his mind about the nature of a parent's sacrifice. The death of a talented young artist further leads him to reflect on his own aloofness. Wharton undoubtedly made Campton an unsympathetic character initially in order to have events and the self-sacrificing attitude of his own son bring about an apotheosis. Maybe if the novel had been published during the war this approach would have made more sense as an exercise in shaming even the most selfish of parents to the needs of the hour, but it came out in 1921. It's an Edith Wharton novel, so you know that tragedy awaits for the denouement. If only Campton's pettiness didn't leave a bitter taste.

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