Controversial when it was first published in 1907 for its frank treatment of second marriages, desire, divorce, drug addiction and mercy killing, Edith Wharton's The Fruit of the Tree
addresses themes that remain strikingly relevant for today's readers.
Set in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts during the height of the progressive era, the book centres on heroine Justine Brent, a professionally trained nurse who is called upon to attend her childhood friend Bessy Westmore, a rich textile mill owner left paralyzed by a riding accident. When Bessy begs to be released from a life of intense pain and suffering, Justine debates the moral issues and makes the difficult choice to administer a lethal dose of morphine. After Bessy dies, Justine falls in love with her widowed husband and joins him in his efforts to create better conditions for the factory workers. Questions surrounding Bessy's death, however, haunt their relationship, and Justine learns first-hand the tragic consequences of social idealism and reform.
Original title: The Fruit of the Tree
Genre: Fiction→ General Fiction