Wharton's most erotic and lyrical novel, Summer explores a daring theme for 1917: a woman's awakening to her sexuality. Eighteen-year-old Charity Royall lives in the small town of North Dormer, ignorant of desire until the arrival of architect Lucius Harney. Independent yet kept from love until now by society's expectations, Charity finds herself wrapped up in a love affair with Harney. Like the succulent summer landscape in the Berkshires around them, Charity's romance is lush and picturesque, but its consequences are harsh and real.
Praised for its realism and candor by such writers as Joseph Conrad and Henry James and compared to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Summer was one of Wharton's personal favorites of all her novels and remains as fresh and relevant today as when it was first written.