Monday, January 14, 2013

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Let it Snow! (Winter Week)

It’s winter, and it’s cold—at least in my part of the world. It’s snowing outside and everything is blanketed in a quiet layer of white.  It’s very beautiful, especially when the sun comes out and everything sparkles like diamonds.

Growing up in Las Vegas we didn’t see much snow. One day in seventh grade while we were toiling away in our windowless, prisonlike school, rumor started that it was actually snowing!  Snow in Vegas, can you imagine?!  It was hard to concentrate on school work. We all just wanted to go out there and touch it, make real snowballs.  Well, thanks to Mr. Erbe, the Spanish teacher, a few of us got our wish.  Mr. Erbe’s class was a portable, one those overflow modular classrooms set out by the P.E. field.  For some reason that day he left the classroom for a few minutes—unsupervised—something I don’t remember him normally doing.  The moment he was out of sight, “vámonos!” was the battle cry and we all ran outside. We had a blast! Snowballs were flying left and right.  Kids were tossing scoops of snow in the air and dancing under it as it fell back down.  We were laughing and having such a good time—until Mr. Erbe came back and saw us.  ¡Ay, caramba! We were in trouble.

Mr. Erbe
Mr. Erbe was mad, plenty mad.  He yelled at us and made us each write three pages worth of “I will not play in the snow” in Spanish.  Mr. Erbe was one of those teachers everyone loved.  While we were writing, he lectured us on trust and responsibility.  We were ashamed and sad we let him down. But I wonder now if it wasn't all a big act.  When I wrote my papers, my writing got bigger and bigger.  Page three probably only had five lines on it, and when I turned it in he looked at it smiled and put it in the pile. That’s when I suspected that Mr. Erbe really wasn't mad at all. I knew he actually left the classroom to give us those few precious minutes to play in the snow. For that I say, gracias Seňor Erbe!

Snow was fun because it was a novelty.  But if you live in snow country day in and day out, it can lose its shine. A lot of people get the winter blues and I can see why.  Winters can be long and dreary, relentless.  But I like to call winter a built-in excuse for reading.  Winter is a time to hunker down inside, watch the snow fall, and curl up on the couch with a good book.  So this week, I thought I’d go over some books in cold settings to really get you in the mood.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a classic first published in 1911.  Don’t worry, it’s a short one.  It’s set in a cold and bleak Massachusetts village where all you see is miles and miles of endless snow. Ethan Frome is married to Zeena.  Zeena is no princess warrior.  She is an unhappy, sickly shrew of a woman who does not make Ethan’s life easy. Given her failing health, Zeena’s cousin, Mattie, comes to help around the house. Mattie is a breath of fresh air for Ethan.  She’s beautiful and she’s nice, and Ethan hasn’t seen nice in a long time. Though they don’t act on it, the attraction is obvious, and Zeena is not happy.  No surprise there. One day Zeena leaves town on a two-day trip for a treatment to help with her illness.  This is their chance. Do they take it?

I won’t give away the ending, but it’s not what I expected. I will say I really liked the book and I wonder what others think of it.

Many classic books are now available free online or on e-readers.  You can find the complete text of Ethan Frome on the websites below:

Now, break out the hot chocolate, even better, add a dash of Baileys to it, and read, read, read.

Happy winter, happy reading!


I’m curious.  What are some good books you’ve read that took place in really cold and wintery settings? Enter a comment or email me at and I will post your answer.

What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email:

1 comment:

  1. I would love to read that book ! When do you have time ? I guess we need snow in LV so I can read more .