Release Date: 1920
The Age of Innocence, one of Edith Wharton’s most renowned novels and the first by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, exquisitely details the struggle between love and responsibility through the experiences of men and women in Gilded Age New York.
The novel follows Newland Archer, a young, aristocratic lawyer engaged to the cloistered, beautiful May Welland. When May’s disgraced cousin Ellen arrives from Europe, fleeing her marriage to a Polish Count, her worldly, independent nature intrigues Archer, who soon falls in love with her. Trapped by his passionless relationship with May and the social conventions that forbid a relationship with Ellen, Archer finds himself torn between possibility and duty.
Wharton’s profound understanding of her characters’ lives makes the triangle of Archer, May, and Ellen come to life with an irresistible urgency. A wry, incisive look at the ways in which love and emotion must negotiate the complex rules of high society, The Age of Innocence is one of Wharton’s finest, most illuminative works.
I was really looking forward to this month’s Main Street Book Club selection- New York, Le Belle Epoque, love in high society- it had to be good.
It was better than good, it was grand. Well, it was grand for the first few chapters, and then I started imagining that perhaps there was something wrong with my e-reader and it was repeating chapters. Sadly, the problem was not of an electronic nature.
Imagine a Venn diagram with the Old Testament (all the “begats”), The Real Housewives of New York and a John Hughes movie– the place where all three overlap is The Age of Innocence. The descriptions are delicious and the plot is timeless, but so much of the text is just a repeat of how people are related, where they live and how they play.
My verdict: Skip it. Unless you are a die-hard fan of Gilded Age romance, you are likely to tire long before the opera season ends.