Enter Peter Coleman. Peter is a social darling; wealthy, assured, handsome and witty, he is immediately attracted to Susan and vice versa. Suddenly Susan is introduced to life on the ‘other side’ and she becomes caught up in the gaiety of social life among the comfortably wealthy. Although not at first confident in her new surroundings, and finding she has much to learn, she is enamored of the wealth and prestigious homes she is introduced to. However, and especially after she accepts a position as companion to one of Peter’s acquaintances, Susan begins to find that the life she thinks of as so easy and attractive is anything but.
“She saw the poisoned undercurrent of this glittering and exquisite existence, the selfishness, the cruelties, the narrowness. She saw its fundamental insincerity. In a world where wrongs were to be righted, and ignorance enlightened, and childhood sheltered and trained, she began to think it strange that strong, and young, and wealthy men and women should be content to waste enormous sums of money upon food to which they scarcely ever brought a normal appetite, upon bridge-prizes for guests whose interest in them scarcely survived the moment of unwrapping the dainty beribboned boxes in which they came, upon costly toys for children whose nurseries were already crowded with toys. She wondered that they should think it worthwhile to spend hours and days in harassing dressmakers and milliners, to make a brief appearance in the gowns they were so quickly ready to discard, that they should gratify every passing whim…”
But if the easy, carefree life Susan has so craved has its dark side, then where is poor Susan to find fulfillment and happiness? The reader may not be too surprised that after a her share of failed romances, Susan will discover that happiness entails (surprise!) not only companionship, but also hard work. Susan find fulfillment not within a life of idle luxury, but alongside a husband that shares her own values and is her true companion and friend. It is eye-opening to Susan to realize that joy can be found in the most simple of everyday pleasures, whether indulging in a dinner of fried oysters or a day spent picnicking in the countryside.
“Why, I was thinking that I’d rather,” Susan began hesitatingly, “rather have my work cut out for me in this life! That is, I’d rather begin at the bottom of the ladder, and work up to the top, than be at the top, through no merit of my own, and live in terror of falling to the bottom! I believe, from what I’ve seen of other people, that we’ll succeed, and I think we’ll have lots of fun doing it!”
A thought-provoking, satisfying read.