Popsugar Reading Challenge: Book 43

Prompt: A re-read of a favourite

I wasn’t sure what to read for this prompt as with a huge TBR pile and a Kindle full of ARCs from Netgalley I tend not to re-read things at the moment. Anyway, in the interests fo completing the challenge honestly I scanned my shelves to see what favourites I fancied re-reading. In the end I chose The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton. This was I book I first read whtn I was at high school and there was a BBC costume drama adaptation. In fact the copy I have is the TV tie-in with pictures of the cast included. I also have a copy of the booklet that BBC Education produced to accompany the series. I went on to write my university dissertation about the literary portrayal of Americans in Europe in Wharton, James, Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

What’s it about?

Set in the 1870s, The Buccaneers tells the story of five, rich young women. Despite their beauty and wealth they are outsiders in the New York social elite where Old Money has power. With the help of a British governess, Laura Testvalley, the girls head to Britain where the improverished aristocracy are desperate to keep their land and estates with a cash injection that marriage to a rich American can provide.

Inspired by the reallife stories of socialites such as Jenny Jerome and Consuelo Vanderbilt, Whartons heroines, Nan, Lizzy, Jinny, Consuelo and Mabel, set off across the Atlantic to make glittering marriages among the social elite.

What I think:

Edith Wharton died before she completed the book and there is a marked difference between the sections of the novel that she did write and the part that finished by Maggie Wadey, a screenwriter comissioned by the BBC to complete the novel and develop the script. The ending is a lot more romantic than Wharton’s previous novels where the heroines face the consequences of the choices they make. This version of The Buccaneers is more glamorous and romantic than Wharton may have intended.

The girls are engaging and young. The ambitions of their parents and those of the aristocatic families they marry into are often against the best interests of these naive young women who have little understanding of the consequences of their marriages.

Divorce, affairs, love, scandal – this book has it all.

Wharton’s writing is rich in detail and she vividly recreates the worlds of New York, Newport and English country houses. This is a society she was intimately familiar with. The governess , Laura Testvalley, is a clear voice throughout the novel. She knows her place within society and often shows the hypocrisy of the world where status and appearances are essential.

There is an alternative version where the ending of th ebook is written by Wharton scholar Marion Mainwaring, which I’ve never read. This re-read has rekindled my love for Wharton and I think the two versions would make an interesting comparison.

I read the TV tie-in of The Buccaneers which was published in 1995 – it’s been on my shelf for all these years!

You can find it at:

Amazon.co.uk: click here