In between picking up and finishing numerous other, skimmable books, I finally finished Sister Carrie (I now realize how difficult it is these days to sit with a long novel).
Focusing on young, inexperienced Carrie and the two older men she becomes involved with but does not love, the novel does a superb job of demonstrating all the factors that play into romantic relationships: personal strengths and weaknesses but also family of origin, chance and luck, financial resources, the wider economy, desires, age, connections, life experience.
I’m sure every woman who has unexpectedly found herself single and childless in her forties feels, at least occasionally, that she misplayed her hand somewhere. Certainly many outside observers hold that opinion. Dreiser’s novel brought to the forefront how little we are in control of in those matters, especially when we are young, inexperienced, and lacking in resources. I think we can all forgive ourselves!
Another novel that I recall playing with these themes is House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.
Next up for me as far as classics go is Henry Miller’s Portrait of a Lady, but I’ll have to find that one on audiobook.