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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence (1920)

by Edith Wharton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,840198341 (4.03)5 / 873
  1. 50
    The American by Henry James (2below)
    2below: Similar plot and themes--both deal with the issue of being an outsider. I find James' prose a bit more vigorous than Wharton's.
  2. 62
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (readerbabe1984)
  3. 41
    The Bostonians by Henry James (jbvm)
  4. 41
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (readerbabe1984)
  5. 31
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (roby72)
  6. 21
    The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (TineOliver)
    TineOliver: Both look at love and marriage in the upper classes of New York society (however, at different time periods)
  7. 33
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (readerbabe1984)
  8. 11
    The Europeans by Henry James (thatguyzero)
1920s (10)

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English (192)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (198)
Showing 1-5 of 192 (next | show all)
This amazing novel makes me want to read more of the Pulitzer fiction winners. At the beginning, I actually thought about dumping it, but quickly caught on after I read the character description and synopsis by Cliff's Notes. ( )
1 vote bsiemens | Sep 30, 2015 |
I loved every detail of the life of ""Society"" - I just lamented the ending! ( )
  JessLJones | Sep 10, 2015 |
Another book which I saw the movie years ago. Being close to 20 years, it was easier for me to replace the actors with characters of my imagination.

A very well written book. Wharton tells a story of New York society of the 1870s that is foreign to our 21st century ideas. While I am impressed with her use of language, the difference in customs was too difficult for me to hurdle. I just don't have the sympathy for Newland Archer that I should. Maybe that is the point that Ms. Wharton wanted to express. The oppression of the social norms was so hard, that Newland is unable to step forward and take control of his life. He is an old fashioned man that society created and passed by. Tragic. ( )
  wvlibrarydude | Sep 6, 2015 |
I loved this book. Newland Archer is reintroduced to the Countess Ellen Olenska on the night that his engagement to Ellen's cousin, May Welland, is announced. He is smitten, but this is 1870's upper class New York City, where scandal is more deadly than disease. Everyone is stifled by rules and conventions. Women rarely speak their minds, and only parrot back the ideas of their husbands or of their parents. Even the men are held back by the constraints of the rules of Society. Interestingly, the man is the main character in the story, and he sees that women are held to different standards. Archer is torn between doing his duty, marrying and remaining faithful to May, or following the free spirited Countess Olenska. He wants his wife to want to experience more. In one scene, Archer is feeling so stifled as he and his wife sit by the fire in the library that he opens the window on a freezing cold night and hangs his head out of the window. May asks him to close the window, and asks if he is ill. After some conversation, she says, "I shall never worry if you're happy." His response, "Ah, my dear; I shall never be happy unless I can open the windows!" I felt that summed up his feelings of being bound by those conventions. There are themes of denial, clinging to the past, wanting changes that are just over the horizon, and, of course the forbidden love, never fully realized. Archer has been sent to fetch the Countess at the train station, and he says, "Do you know--I hardly remembered you?" .... "I mean, how shall I explain? I--it's always so. EACH TIME YOU HAPPEN TO ME ALL OVER AGAIN."

Wharton's writing is wonderful and often witty. She was born into a wealthy New York family, and won the Pulitzer Prize for this insider's look at 1870's New York society.

Read July 2013 ( )
  NanaCC | Jul 26, 2015 |
In late 19th century New York City, Newland Archer, soon-to-be-married, unexpectedly falls in love with another woman, Ellen Olenska, and finds himself questioning the strictures of his society.

I was quite turned off of Edith Wharton as an English major in college (we read House of Mirth) and made the decision then not to read either her or George Eliot again. Now, later in life, I am rethinking that decision and giving these authors another chance. I believe that there is a right time in life to read certain books, and often we ruin the classics by forcing them on students before they are mature enough (or perhaps have the right life experience) to appreciate them. I listened to an excellent audio rendition of this book, and it absolutely redeemed Wharton for me. I can definitely see myself revisiting this book again, as well as trying her other novels. While on the surface, there may seem to be a lot name-dropping and eye-glazing gossip in the narrative, what Wharton is actually doing is so clever: using the conventions of society (family importance and connections) to criticize the entire structure of society. Her characters are so true to life that even today, when surely we've progressed somewhat, they are all quite recognizable, as are their concerns with appearance and propriety, which Wharton makes seem not only petty, but downright cruel. Newland's transformation is quite believable and at times his thoughts were even shocking, so immersed did I become in Wharton's world. I also enjoyed Wharton's frequent commentary on the position of women in this society, as filtered through Newland's clearly conflicted point of view, as well as her little asides about the work of writers and how writers were viewed. The ending is not tragic but sadly realistic; the lives of Newland, Ellen, and even Newland's wife May come to seem like wasted lives, which I guess is really a tragedy after all.

Read in 2015. ( )
  sturlington | Jun 5, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 192 (next | show all)
So how can Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence possibly be the greatest New York novel of all time? Well, it is. It builds itself, obsessively, out of all the essential New York themes.
The appearance of such a book as "The Age of Innocence" by an American is a matter for public rejoicing. It is one of the best novels of the twentieth century and looks like a permanent addition to literature.

» Add other authors (141 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Whartonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auchincloss, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dayne, BrendaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, MaureenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, DianeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, R.W.B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lively, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orgel, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raver, LornaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shore, StephenPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Lawrence BeallIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.
And he felt himself oppressed by this creation of factitious purity, so cunningly manufactured by a conspiracy of mothers and aunts and grandmothers and long-dead ancestresses, because it was supposed to be what he wanted, what he had a right to, in order that he might exercise his lordly pleasure in smashing it like an image made of snow.
It was the old New York way of taking life" without effusion of blood": the way of people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than "scenes", except the behavior of those who gave rise to them.
When he thought of Ellen Olenska it was abstractly, serenely, as one might think of some imaginary beloved in a book or a picture: she had become the composite vision of all that he had missed.
"That terrifying product of the social system he belonged to and believed in, the young girl who knew nothing and expected everything, looked back at him like a stranger through May Welland's familiar features; and once more it was borne in on him that marriage was not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, but a voyage on uncharted seas."
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Book description
In the conformist, closed world of upper-class New York, Newland Archer anticipates his marriage to May Welland, a young girl "who knew nothing and expected everything". Into this ordered arrangement bursts May's cousin, Ellen, the mysterious and exotic Countess Olenska, on the run from an appallingly unhappy marriage. She alternately captivates and outrages the New York milieu and, as Newland's sympathy for her deepens into love, he not only gains insight into the brutality of society's treatment of women, but discovers the real anguish of loving outside its rules. Critical, compassionate, and acutely perceptive about both the individual and the defensiveness of society, The Age of Innocence is perhaps Edith Wharton's finest work.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 159308143X, Paperback)

Somewhere in this book, Wharton observes that clever liars always come up with good stories to back up their fabrications, but that really clever liars don't bother to explain anything at all. This is the kind of insight that makes The Age of Innocence so indispensable. Wharton's story of the upper classes of Old New York, and Newland Archer's impossible love for the disgraced Countess Olenska, is a perfectly wrought book about an era when upper-class culture in this country was still a mixture of American and European extracts, and when "society" had rules as rigid as any in history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:34 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Newland Archer begins to question the values of high society in Victorian New York when he finds himself torn between two very different women--his proper young fiancee and her exotic cousin.

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