Welcome to the House of Fun

The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

They passed through a glass doorway at the end of the long suite of rooms and stood suddenly in the fragrant hush of the garden. Gravel grated beneath their feet, and about them was the transparent dimness of a midsummer night. Hanging lights made emerald caverns in the depths of foliage, and whitened the spray of a fountain falling among lilies.

In a novel of manners women must marry or die. Money must be an obstacle in match making, and there is always a time limit. Lily Bart is a woman brought up to be an ornament, the aristocrats of turn of the twentieth century New York offer no alternatives. She want to marry for love, but  marrying well (i.e. richly) is paramount. A testament to how awesome Edith Wharton is: the first woman to win the pulitzer prize (for The Age of Innocence) grew up within the family who inspired the phrase ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. With all that society at her disposal; the wealth, the marriage; Wharton wasn’t another Lily Bart. She lived independently in Paris, writing witty and satirical novels of the cruel society she escaped.