The Bucaneers

ISBN: 0517152789
ISBN 13: 9780517152782
By: Edith Wharton Marion Mainwaring

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About this book

Nan and Jinny St George have both wealth and beauty in generous supply. In the New York society of the 1870s, however, only those with old money can achieve the status of the elite, and it is here that the sisters seem doomed to failure.Nan's new governess, Laura Testvalley, herself an outsider, takes pity on their plight and launches them instead on the unsuspecting British aristocracy. Lords, dukes, marquesses and MPs, it seems, not only appreciate beauty, but also the money that New York's nouveaux riches can supply.A love story of love and marriage among the old and new moneyed classes, The Buccaneers is a delicately perceptive portrayal of a world on the brink of change.

Reader's Thoughts


Based on what I know of Wharton's personal life this story is true to her personal life and experiences. And I can't help feeling sorry for her. She writes like this is the way life is and that it is the same way everywhere and cannot be helped or changed. I understand that times were different then and to some degree I can identify with some of the social moires (some of the rules of entering proper society have not changed all that much) However, I think she is was wrong to make us think that happy marriages were the exception rather than the rule back then. She completely leaves out religion and morality at a time when that was still an important part of society no matter what class you were in. I wouldn't say I liked the book but I didn't dislike it either. I see the book being written from the author's own personal experience and I wish she could've seen and experienced a happier life.


** spoiler alert ** Well...I liked it and I didn't. I've been a huge fan of the movie and love examining the different marriage relationships. I enjoyed very much learning MORE about Annabel and Conchita, and they have remained my favorite characters. However, I'm sad that in the book Annabel simply seemed to get bored with being a duchess, and seemed to lose all her passion for life, whereas in the movie she was raped and abused by her husband. There was only one threat in the book about using force, but other than that it did not exist. I just don't know what to make of it all, now that it is done. I also feel like the book just sort of ended. There was a whole plot that had practically just started when the book ended. What happened to the rest of the characters? Did the re-marriage plan go through? Did Lady Churt get her just desserts? What about Lord Britlingsea? Did he die?


This book reminded me why I like Edith Wharton so much. The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth are not only two of my favorite books, but I'd also say that The House of Mirth is one of the few books that has profoundly impacted me. I tried reading Ethan Frome and Summer over the past year, but I just couldn't get into them. The Buccaneers engaged me from the beginning.The Buccaneers is probably best read after having read some of Wharton's other works. The ending is a little different than her endings usually are. It's no Jane Austen ending (thank god), but it is more satisfactory than her other novels. Wharton didn't finish this novel, but from what I understand, Marion Mainwaring wrote it based upon Wharton's notes. Although there were a couple of times when the writing clearly didn't feel like Wharton's, she does a good job overall. It's not enough to detract someone from reading this novel.The most striking thing about reading this novel in the context of some of Wharton's other novels is that you get to see how American society changed. The main characters head to England to marry into noble (but poor) families after being ostracized by old American families. The Age of Innocence focuses solely upon American society, and you can see the differences from that society and the society in The Buccaneers. The novel offers a glimpse into the changing perspective on America as well.


I found out about this because of the TV miniseries and since I love Edith Wharton I was excited to find out about another book--only to learn that she never finished it. But this particular editing is finished by another writer who appears to have done a good job at using Wharton's original outline (and patterns of departure) to complete the last third of the novel. I think I'll go back and read just Wharton's version (if I can find it. It was printed as "Fast and Loose and The Buccaneers" or something like that) to see what the other author did. The characters are classic Wharton, and there is a degree of social edginess about her work, but the book is not as edgy as the TV production (homosexuality, syphilis, etc.), which makes me wonder why the producers put those extra details in, since Wharton already included infidelity, fornication, and general dissipation. And the actress who played Nan St. George looked like she might have been pregnant through the whole production. But that has nothing to do with the book.


I must really like this book, because this was not my first time reading it. I think that when I was younger I liked it for the excitement of the plot, whereas now I appreciate it for its larger context. It strikes me as very plausible story from a specific time and place in history (end of the 19th century in the U.S. and England). It highlights the way in which the political systems of the two countries determine their cultural differences. The book puts everything I appreciate and take for granted about my own American life into a more precarious state than where I'm used to seeing it. In some ways it seems like a look at the beginning of a cultural revolution. The only objection I have is that it was not completed by Edith Wharton--it was completed after her death based on her outline, but about 30% of the book was not actually written by her. This is not obvious when you read it, but it just doesn't sit quite right.

Bobbi Woods

This was a book club read, and I was excited because it falls into my more recent 19th century England genre fetish/obsession!This book was written mostly by Edith Wharton but she died before finishing it in the 1930s. She left behind a pretty clear outline so someone else finished it for her--an Edith Wharton biographer! (her name escapes me) It was seamless and you would never know that it was written by two people. During the first half of the book, I kept thinking, "snooty, snooty, snotty women, just get OVER yourselves!"Anyway, these "rich" American girls being pushed by their mothers to fit into New York society circles decide to go to London and meet the men of their dreams at the suggestion of their governess. One or two end up marrying royalty and the others marry plain old rich English men. England ends up being a not-so-friendly culture to them--they are viewed as obnoxious and crass and not as sophisticated. This is where the term "Buccaneers" comes from--because they seemed to come and "conquer" and "pillage" the British men, much to the dismay of the British mothers!The book began picking up when the main character, Nan, who married a Duke and became a Duchess becomes unhappy and starts to realize her husband doesn't really love her--she is just a figurehead who must do as she is told. She lost a pregnancy trying to save a dying boy in the village on her husband's land. Her husband was furious and things were not the same between them. In the meantime, she falls in love with another man, who has always loved her and sees her for her true self--a caring, down-to-earth person. She tries to be proper--nothing actually happens physically between them--just a lot of hot an heavy thoughts! :-)The first half of the book was just OK--it definitely got better when the drama with all the crazy marriages begins in the second half! As I always say, I didn't love it, but I am better for reading it!Jane and Aunt Cath--you might both enjoy this book!


Ce roman riche et foisonnant reprend le thème très prisé par Henry James de la rencontre entre la nouvelle Amérique et la vieille Europe. Cette opposition est encore renforcée par le choix de personnages féminins pour les Américains et de personnages presque exclusivement masculins pour les Anglais. Edith Wharton ne s’intéresse d’ailleurs que peu aux hommes dans ce récit, excepté les Thwarte, père et fils, confidents et amis respectifs de Miss Testvalley et d’Annabelle. Le roman se divise en quatre parties, chacune distante des autres de quelques années. On suit donc l’évolution de ces cinq jeunes filles pendant une période assez longue, qui permet à l’auteur de nous décrire la suite de ces mariages. La rigidité des règles de la vie sociale constituent cette fois encore le ciment de l’histoire. Qu’il s’agisse de faire son entrée dans le monde, d’être courtisée ou bien encore de son comportement avec son mari, les héroïnes sont sans cesse confrontées à ce qu’elles devraient faire ou à la façon dont elles devraient agir, en vertu de règles ancestrales établies par la bonne société. Leur nationalité leur confère un statut d’étrangères qui les rend très hermétiques à ce code de bonne conduite. Cette excuse permet à Edith Wharton de montrer combien ces règles peuvent s’avérer nocives pour l’épanouissement d’un caractère fragile et irréconciliables avec la violence des sentiments à laquelle nous pouvons tous être confrontés. Chez Edith Wharton, il semblerait bien que la complexité de la vie se reflète dans les destins souvent tragiques de ses héroïnes. Pourtant, le destin des Boucanières est bien moins dramatique que celui de Lily Bart dans Chez les heureux du monde. Toutes ne connaîtront pas la déception d’Annabelle et la fin du roman nous offre quelques beaux exemples d’entente conjugale.Ce roman a été plus qu’un coup de cœur : il entre sans conteste dans la short-list de mes romans préférés. Bruissement de robes, propos frivoles et éclats de rire en cascade ne parviennent pas à masquer la révolte d’Edith Wharton face à un monde corseté dans lequel elle ne s’est jamais retrouvée. La richesse de ce roman, l’exubérance de ses personnages et la palette des émotions qui s’y déploient, sous la plume claire et élégante de l’auteur, en font un moment de lecture incomparable.


Although this novel is unfinished and Wharton would have done a lot of revision, there is still a lot of her wonderful prose and it is very interesting to see her looking back at the 1870s from the 1930s, which in places allow her to be sexually franker than she could in her earlier works. The novel centres on a group of young American women who marry British men and struggle to fit into British high society, and there are some powerfully-drawn characters, including the heroine, Annabel ("Nan"), and her governess, Laura, who is related to the pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and has a rebellious nature beneath her quiet surface.When I picked up this copy of Edith Wharton's final unfinished novel, I didn't realise it had been completed by another writer, Marion Mainwaring. (Maybe I should have guessed this from the mention of it being a "complete edition" on the cover, but it might have been helpful if the publishers had added the second author's name!) I'll admit I didn't read very much of her continuation - there is no indication of where the break comes, but it is pretty obvious as her writing style is very different, and I didn't feel reading her section would add much to Wharton's subtle characterisation. I found Wharton's original text online with details of the outline she left of her plans for the rest of the novel, and that was enough for me. I would really like to give five stars for Wharton - or for her best passages - and one for the continuation.


I've fallen in love, readers!It took me about 12 hours from start to finish to read the last of Wharton's novels, left unfinished for decades and then completed in Wharton's style by scholar Marion Mainwaring. As I mentioned earlier, I've watched the PBS series three times now and there's something about it that gets to me. Perhaps because it's sexier and funnier and looser than what one would expect from the era, and because [SPOILER ALERT:] its ending which actually arises from Wharton's notes, is decidedly un-Whartonian. I'm terribly moved by the idea that at the end of her life, Edith Wharton would decide to write a novel about a heroine who behaves in the exact opposite way of nearly all her other major characters, who--to put it quite frankly--doesn't give a shit about social convention and flouts it utterly. I like to think of it as the author's reconciliation to romance, her final, deathbed middle finger to the rules and hierarchies with which she had such a deeply-tortured relationships.Reading The Buccaneers is a dream for those who like comedies-of-manners for their own sake. Wharton will never be Austen: she takes ten lines to explain the social relationships that Austen dispatches with a sentence (this, I think, is evidence of Wharton's psychic struggle with society). But the first two thirds of the book, written by Wharton without revision, each page dropped off the side of her bed as she finished it, are blithe, satirical, sexy and both funny and sad.The many scenes where the characters forge connections over poetry and art as well Nan St. George's stifling marriage and post-marital sexual awakening make me feel as though this is Wharton's Persuasion. And like that novel and other novels with heavy autobiographical elements--Copperfield, The Song of the Lark, etc. it has an emotional immediacy that feels startling and gives it a value different from a more controlled, classically perfect novel.Wharton's contrast of Laura Testevalley, who gives up on romance and sacrifices her chance of happiness so that Nan can run away with Guy Thwarte, and Nan, who finds happiness with Guy after having giving up on it in her role as duchess, fascinates: one feels that Wharton is both Laura, in middle age loosening her scruple, and Nan herself.Mainwaring's best contributions are a number of concluding love scenes that are satisfying (if not as satisfying as the wheat-field fornication in the film ;)) and a deft weaving-in of the horribly sexist divorce laws of the time that existed to punish women, humiliate them, and treat them as property. Marital rape is legal, and Nan's refusal to "produce heirs" for her huband after becoming emotionally estranged from him is a pivotal plot point.This was definitely the best read I've embarked on in a while. I couldn't recommend it enough for Wharton fans who have long desired a less "thwarted" ending for her characters. I'd add that picturing Greg Wise in the romantic leading role definitely added a lot to the reading experience.http://unpretentiouslitcrit.blogspot....


Lots of fun and often overlooked, this chronicles the marriage prospects of four daughters of nouveau riche Americans who hope to land cash-poor English aristocrats. After all, new fortunes can’t buy entrance to New York society, but the doors have to swing wide open if the families can boast a duke for an in-law. But can a titled marriage bring happiness? Of course not (at least not always), but the individual journeys make for great reading.


This book was finished by another author and frankly I just skimmed at end. I love Edith Wharton's writing but I think it was a mistake to let someone else finish this book. I thought the difference in writing styles was very obvious and it was a big let-down. The writing that I take to be Mainwaring's reads like a bad period romance.


Really enjoyed this one, completed by Marion Mainwaring who apparently studies Wharton's work for several decades, so I think she did it justice. This is the 3rd Wharton book I've read and enjoyed all. My daughter is reading House of Mirth for her AP Lit class as a high school junior. I think this book, House of Mirth and Age of Innocence are truly great American literature.


Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors and The Buccaneers is one of the few of her novels I had never read. It is the story of five American heiresses in the later part of the 19th century who move to London to catch aristocratic husbands. It is a typical Wharton tale of social mores, cultural clashes and delicately fraught relationships. It was a nice follow up to Downton Abbey with more emphasis on American ways, and I loved it. Wharton’s style is exquisite ( Henry James without the long sentences!) and my one reservation about this book is that it is, not surprisingly, uneven. Wharton died before having a chance to finish or edit the book, and I found a clear difference in the later chapters, which were finished by someone else following Wharton’s synopsis. But, there were chapters in the middle that were as finely drawn, and subtle as any chapter in Age of Innocence. It is really one of her best stories. If you want to read Wharton at her very best, I suggest the short story Roman Fever. I am not usually a fan of this genre but I think this is just about perfect


Oh my God, if someone could resurrect the dead and had enough magic potion for one person, I would choose Madame Wharton. It devastates me that even if I visit the "W" shelf at the library a million times over, as if I were a pilgrim visiting a holy shrine, on my bleeding and torn knees, there will never be a new Wharton book propped there for me to read for the very first time. I guess I should be grateful that there are authors out there who inspire such devotion, dead or otherwise.


The synopsis for this 1938 edition for The Buccaneers (appearing above) is completely wrong! Who wrote that?! No swashbuckling pirates, here! Edith Wharton's "novel" was published as a lightly edited, incomplete manuscript in the year following her death. It was sure to have been her masterpiece!The "Buccaneers" are 5 nouveau riche American girls who, steered by an English-Italian (cousin to artist/poet D.G. Rosetti) governess, "invade" the Bristish peerage in the 'seventies (1870's).While later editions append with an ending written by a Wharton scholar, I am charmed that my local libray is still circulating this original 1938 edition! There is no ending; it's a cliffhanger prematurely left off amidst a failing marriage and budding romance. So why 5 stars??The writing is superb. The British landscape is beautifully elaborated, in watercolor tones. The subject is fascinating: courtships spanning the improbable social/cultural divide between American upstarts and British aristocrats. And then there's the novelty of reading an unfinished work. The editor insists that Ms. Wharton was not finished developing several of her characters. The contrast between her well-developed characters and the more-transparent ones helps a modern reader appreciate qualities of "classic" literature. I universally recommend this forgotten masterpiece. I'm still deciding if I'll read the "finished" edition, as this one was surprisingly satisfying even in it's incompletion.

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