Reviewed by Lesley Ann Beck
A society matron schemes to have her estranged husband appear at their daughter’s wedding; a socialite awaits the reviews of her first published novel with dread; and a woman shunned by society for being a divorcé returns to New York City from her exile in Florence, Italy, only to realize that she is still an outcast.
These characters appear in the three short stories—“The Last Asset,” “Expiation,” and “Autre Temps”—included in Edith Wharton on Audio, Volume 1, the first audiobook from the Wharton Audio Project, a collaboration between Berkshire Media Artists (BMA) and The Mount Press. The selected stories were written between 1902 and 1911, when Edith Wharton, the first female author to win a Pulitzer Prize, lived at The Mount in Lenox, Mass., and all three feature characters dealing, in some way or another, with the strictures of “polite society.”
Wharton was known for penning “biting social satire,” says Jason Brown, who produced and directed the project at his BMA Studios in Monterey, Mass. “I wanted short stories that were written while she was at The Mount,” he adds, “and these were my favorites.”
The stories are read dramatically by Jonathan Epstein, Tod Randolph, and Tara Franklin, accomplished actors familiar to Berkshire theatergoers. In fact, all three have either acted in or read from Wharton works at The Mount.
“The Last Asset,” the tale of an American newspaperman on assignment in Paris who is enlisted to find a missing father-of-the-bride, is read by Epstein with just the right inflection of humor. “Expiation” is read by Franklin, whose youthful voice is ideal for the story of Mrs. Fetherel, the would-be author of a scandalous exposé. And Randolph does a marvelous job with “Autre Temps,” the poignant tale of a woman whose own long-ago divorce makes her worry for her beloved daughter, about to risk her status in society.
Musical interludes buffer the excellent recordings of Wharton’s stories, which lend themselves to being read aloud, an activity often enjoyed by Wharton and her guests at The Mount. Edith Wharton on Audio, Volume 2, which features a selection of ghost stories, is due in spring 2011.
Edith Wharton on Audio Volume 1 the audio book is on three CDs; listening time is three hours and fifteen minutes. For more information, visit www.bmaaudio.com.