The Custom of the Country tells the story of Undine Spragg, a Midwestern girl who attempts to ascend in New York City society. It may well be have been the lynchpin that made Edith Wharton's career become the phenomenon that comes so easily to memory across so many decades. Oh, it's of a cloth with all her work -- there's no mistaking that a page of her writing came from her and not someone else -- but on a certain level, this novel is a mean book, and the meanness is warranted. The heroine (a woman named Undine Spragg, of all things!) is a spoiled heiress who makes her way in life by conquering one man after another after another, moving from the American heartland eastward first to New York, and ultimately to Paris.