"At around the age of 40, Edith Wharton, like an aging Sleeping Beauty, at last came to life — at least professionally. The novel that made her name, The House of Mirth, published in 1905, is the searing account of the struggles and spiraling descent of Lily Bart, a young woman whose youth is slipping away, and with it her prospects. As Lee observes, 'she is always losing her opportunities, because she cannot quite turn herself into a commodity.' Lily's failures reflect the importance of money, and self-marketing, for women in late-19th-century American society, and Wharton's assessment is brutal. The book was scandalous, and popular: it sold 30,000 copies in the first three weeks after its publication, and 140,000 in its first year."