Hmm…part of me will always wonder how Wharton would have really ended this novel. Mainwaring’s ending is fine; you can certainly get a sense of Wharton’s essence, especially through the characterization of Miss Testvalley. But truthfully, the ending is choppy and episodic when compared to the first half of the novel. Also the characterization of Guy Thwarte changes from the beginning to the end and not for the better. In Mainwaring’s hands he becomes a whimpering lovesick puppy, pining for his love. While part of me found this slightly amusing, I also thought it such a waste, especially when comparing it to the manly Guy Thwarte at the beginning who had so much potential.
While the social commentary regarding American-European relations…the role of the foreigner…old vs. new money is certainly evident, I would have liked more introspection. The characters are mere surface representations without any real personality or depth. The reader only gets a brief glimpse of their thoughts and feelings and mostly it’s heavily tied in with plot and social mobility rather than self-reflection. But one aspect you can easily take away from this book is that it’s timeless…that shallow nit-picky squabbling nature and macinations of “friends” in the 19th Century can easily be found today. Just turn on your TV.
All in all, I think I preferred the film to the book. Though I must say that I prefer the characterization of Ushant, the Duke of Tintagel, in the novel to that of the film. In truth, I think he’s the only character who’s more developed in the novel than the film.