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The Mother's Recompense: 05/02/07

The Mother's Recompense

BookCrossing introduced me to Edith Wharton's books, first through a bookring (The Age of Innocence) and then through a wild catch (The Mother's Recompense) back in 2004. As a lover of old books, imagine how thrilled I was to find a 1925 copy with a BookCrossing label on it!

The Mother's Recompense is a story of mistakes and regrets. Kate Clephane lives in Europe in self imposed exile after a disastrous affair where she left her young husband and infant daughter home in New York. She lives a dull life on the French Rivera where the new scandals of her fellow ex-pats lets her forget her own transgressions.

Now twenty years later, her grown daughter calls her home to face the family, her memories and gives her a chance to start afresh as if nothing ever happened. Unfortunately her happy reunion is short lived as Anne, the daughter, announces her engagement to Kate's old lover.

The story sounds hokey but it's written with an unusual amount of frankness that one is drawn into Kate's world. The novel moves away from being just about Kate's mistakes but about her attempts at redemption and her desire to be a "good" mother to Anne.

While Wharton the narrator is frank with her audience about Kate's desires and transgressions, Kate finds herself incapable of admitting the truth to Anne both from an combined desire to protect her daughter and to avoid bringing further shame to the family.

The book has its flaws, mostly in its propensity for melodrama and sometimes Kate's indecision grows tiresome but overall I enjoyed The Mother's Recompense.

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