The Persephone Book of Short Stories: Roman Fever by Edith Wharton


Edith Wharton is the first female author to win the Pulitzer Prize (for The Age of Innocence in 1920), so I was very excited to read Roman Fever as I have not read any of her books before. However, my excitement did not last long. I found Roman Fever to be a tad bit boring for my taste. 😦

Roman Fever is a story about Grace Ansley and Alida Slade, two old friends vacationing in Rome with their two daughters. Barbara Ansley and Jenny Slade leave with two eligible young Italian men, letting their mothers knit and enjoy the magnificent ruins of the Palatine and the Forum. The two mothers chat for a while and drown in their own thoughts, where they view each other, “each through the wrong end of her little telescope.” The way they pity each other, it is evident that they have always been only superficial friends.

That night things go well until they start reminiscing the time they spent in Rome when they were young. Maybe it is Barbara Ansley’s beauty compared to her own daughter’s plainness triggered Alida’s jealousy. However, things take a terrible turn when Alida tells Grace that it was her who composed a letter to Grace as Delphin, then Alida’s fiancé and future husband. It turns out Alida knew that Grace had a crush on Delphin and used her knowledge to humiliate Grace. But was she successful?

Even though I appreciate the plot and twist in Roman Fever, I do not really understand why Grace and Alida remained friends all these years. If it were me, I would just be honest with each other and be done with this ‘friendship’. But then again, if it happened like that there won’t be a story to tell! 😉


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