Book Review: The Touchstone by Edith Wharton


I didn’t realize it until I started reading, but I had already read The Touchstone a few years ago. What quickly became clear is that I was liking it much better this time round. I am a pretty solid fan of Edith Wharton overall so I am never too disappointed with her. And there is really nothing to disappoint here, except perhaps the last line as Frances notes.

Glennard, in need of money decides with some hesitation, to sell the personal letters sent to him by a now dead famous author who was in love with him. One of the reasons he sells is to be able to have enough money to marry his girlfriend. Once the letters are publish the become scandalously popular which makes it even harder for Glennard to assuage his guilt over having sold them. He becomes particularly upset that his wife–who only could become his wife thanks to the money he got from selling the letters–is reading the volumes of letters and he is worried what she will think of him if she finds out. Eventually he wants his wife to find out so that he can be somehow redeemed or at least relieved by her scorn for his actions.

I think Glennard’s shame over the publication of the letters has less to do with the fact that he profited from selling them and much more to do with how the published letters put a mirror up the coldness of his soul. And frankly the way he was willing to let a chasm of disinterest and even hate grow between himself and his wife further suggest tha Glennard can be one cold fish.

The Verdict: Vintage Wharton is always worth reading.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Touchstone by Edith Wharton

  1. whisperinggums August 19, 2011 / 7:00 pm

    I read this many years ago too. Had forgotten what it was about. Your review brought it back and reminded me I'd like to read it again. Wharton is SO delicious.


  2. Heidi'sbooks August 20, 2011 / 9:36 pm

    I'm going to start this one soon. I haven't read any Wharton before, so I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for the review.


  3. Chrisbookarama August 21, 2011 / 9:03 pm

    Vinatge Wharton is always worth reading is so true. I haven't read this one yet though. I must put it on my list.


  4. Frances August 24, 2011 / 9:10 am

    LOVED this one. As you say, Wharton is always worth reading. The language always overwhelms me. With envy.


  5. Vintage Reading August 24, 2011 / 3:49 pm

    I'm a little behind with my Wharton reading. I'd not even heard of this until the recent posts around the book blogs. Thanks for bringing it to our attention I want to read it.


  6. Emily Barton August 25, 2011 / 6:55 pm

    “Vintage Wharton is always worth reading.” I couldn't agree more. If you haven't read them and want a little Halloween inspiration this year, I highly recommend her ghost stories.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.