"I put most of myself into that opus," Edith Wharton said of The Reef, possibly her most autobiographical novel. Published in 1912, it was, Bernard Berenson told Henry Adams, "better than any previous work excepting Ethan Frome."
A challenge to the moral climate of the day, The Reef follows the fancies of George Darrow, a young diplomat en route from London to France, intent on proposing to the widowed Anna Leath. Unsettled by Anna's reticence, Darrow drifts into an affair with Sophy Viner, a charmingly naive and impecunious young woman whose relations with Darrow and Anna's family threaten his prospects for success.
For its dramatic construction and acute insight into social mores and the multifaceted problem of sexuality, The Reef stands as one of Edith Wharton's most daring works of fiction.