I picked up this book at the annual library booksale. Something about it called to me – maybe the compact size of it, the dark blue hardcover with a simple title label stuck onto the upper part of the cover. In fact, I think it was one of those books that I saw on my way to check out. You can see countless old books at a library book sale. Each one with some sort of history that you likely won’t ever know. Who had this book before me? And before them?
I did not realize that the copy I picked up could be read as a stand alone but was #4 in the Old New York series by Wharton. It was a library discard, from the library that is literally less than 30 seconds from my doorstep (I’ve timed it). So we have been in proximity of each other for years now. I may have passed it over when choosing an old book to take on an Amtrak excursion five years ago. The printing of this copy is from 1924 by D. Appleton and Company.
I had the GALL to carry this relic of a book around. Putting my fingers all over it, sticking it in my bag with my camera on a daily basis so that I’d have it with me for my lunchtime walks. I adore it. However, I now wish that I had also seen the other three that precede it.
The story itself did keep me involved. A story of a woman, Lizzie Hazeldean, who was having an affair with Henry Prest. We don’t learn very much about how the affair started or what these two people talk much about or how they really feel during the affair as it’s happening. In fact, we just walked in on the end of the affair. Bummer.
A Fifth Avenue hotel has caught on fire, where the final dalliance is happening. The two run for it and are seen by some town folk. Will these people leak word back to Lizzie’s husband? How does Lizzie actually feel about her husband?
it turns out that her husband is ill and Lizzie dedicates herself to him and his end of life care. She chooses in his death to fully honor her marriage vows to him. When Henry Prest returns a year later to reconnect, we wonder, now that she is free and clear, what will she want?
I won’t give that part away. It does follow Lizzie’s life and eventually we do learn more about their thoughts regarding each other during the affair. We learn about the span of a lifetime and what activities and small schedules pass our time until it is time.
I am hoping to pick up the other three books in the collection, False Dawn (the 1840s), The Old Maid (the 1850s) and The Spark (The 1860s). However, I will be even more thrilled if I can find first pressings and carry them around like a favorite toy. This collection can be amassed in one book, Old New York: Four Novellas. But I think I will set my sights on further used booksales to see what I may find.