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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
10,430240392 (4.02)5 / 982
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    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.
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    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. 10
    The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (kitzyl)
    kitzyl: Man engaged to conventional society finds himself attracted to an outcast who challenges the rigidity and hypocrisy of the era.
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    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (readerbabe1984)
1920s (11)

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English (231)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (240)
Showing 1-5 of 231 (next | show all)
I am not a fan of Edith Wharton. This book was required reading and bored me to tears. For the most part it felt that nothing was really going on, and while I don't remember specific details nearly 10 years later, I remember that by the time I finished it I was relieved and also hated it. I have never recommended this one to anyone and am usually surprised by those who sing Wharton's praises. It was just too exhausting. ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Aug 1, 2018 |
The plot of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel does not move far or fast, but Wharton's prose is so luminous and descriptive that you hardly mind. I did not like this book as much as "The House of Mirth" (which seems to cover a lot of the same ground) or "Ethan Frome," but by the end, I was still completely caught up in what was happening to the characters. 1870s New York is completely unrecognisable as the city of today, and evidently already was even when this novel was written, but this book helped me appreciate the distinctly Puritan character of American heritage, and perhaps even to understand myself a little better.

I was, however, disappointed in the ancillary material in the Barnes and Noble edition. Maureen Howard's introduction provides little more than spoilers other than to say that every detail Wharton writes is for a reason; there is also a major spoiler in the first endnote, so if you had skipped the introduction, you might still have had the ending ruined right from the start. The questions for further discussion are particularly esoteric in this novel and not likely to be of much help to lay readers; they seem drawn from a college literature course. ( )
  quaintlittlehead | Jul 14, 2018 |
Edith Wharton's masterpiece of societal cruelty, in which love must be buried, duty must be satisfied, and hearts must be sacrificed on the altar of convention. Newland Archer is about to embark on the correct course in life when his fiancee's cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, flees her husband and returns to the bosom of her family in New York. Talk about a study in primal eating of one's young...this family wishes nothing more than to devour Ellen for not following the precepts and rules they have chosen to impose upon themselves. This society screams "hang happiness" at the top of its lungs, and most who try to be happy in spite of it are punished.

What ensues for these two characters is a study in self-sacrifice and sadness. It must be the most horrible ache imaginable to have the thing you desire most dangled just outside your reach. What is worse is that, although they make the hard choice of not indulging their baser desires, they are labeled by society just as if they had. Newland does have choices, however, and it is his inability to make the hard choice and suffer the consequences (in return for which he might have had a life of happiness and fulfilment) that make this an even sadder tale. The reluctance to break the mold is what gives "them" control of your life.

Wharton has given us a picture of what reality is, even today, when you allow others to determine what you can and cannot be. Newland does not lead a worthless or even a miserable life, but he leads a life that is incomplete and unfulfilled. We do not know, but we must assume that Ellen's life, while more free because of her own hard choices, has elements of the same. In the end, I find myself most envying Dallas and Fanny, who are free of the conventions that held his father and able to choose one another openly. That it is too late for Newland is absolutely true and Wharton's ending slams home that truth. You can never step into the same river twice.

I have developed a great appreciation for Wharton's writing and her ability to look at the society she was such an integral part of without blinking. I have come to her late in life, but that might be best. I wonder if an inexperienced, immature mind could grasp the true hopelessness of the situations she confronts. Perhaps the cost of great wealth was, particularly in that time, was the loss of all freedom to chart a course of your own desire. ( )
1 vote phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
I found this more dated and of-its-own-time than many much older books. ( )
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence," is a classic. The novel has a theme that stands out, individual vs. society. Newland Archer meets modern Ellen Olenska who behaves in a manner that is considered too modern for the society. Meanwhile the other female character play by the rules of society impeccably to have the social game tilt in her favor. Should we conform to the rules of society or be an individual, live by our own wants? This is set at a different period. The last scene where Archer sits across from the building, just watching over the residence where Olenska resides is telling of how people should properly behave in this society, the "age of innocence." ( )
  majestic131 | Feb 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 231 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (92 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wharton, Edithprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auchincloss, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dayne, BrendaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horovitch, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, MaureenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, DianeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, R.W.B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lively, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Negri, PietroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orgel, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pisani, TommasoIntroduzionesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quinn, Laura Dluzynskisecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raver, LornaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shore, StephenPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Lawrence BeallIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waid, CandaceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolff, Cynthia GriffinIntroductionsecondary 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)

Winner of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, The Age of Innocence is Edith Wharton's masterful portrait of desire and betrayal during the sumptuous Golden Age of Old New York, a time when society people "dreaded scandal more than disease." This is Newland Archer's world as he prepares to marry the beautiful but conventional May Welland. But when the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after a disastrous marriage, Archer falls deeply in love with her. Torn between duty and passion, Archer struggles to make a decision that will either courageously define his life--or mercilessly destroy it.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909438820, 1909438839

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