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The Age of Innocence (Collector's Library) [Hardcover]

Nigel Cliff , Edith Wharton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2004 Collector's Library
As the scion of one of New York's leading families, Newland Archer was born into a life of sumptuous privilege and strict duty. Though sensitive and intelligent, Archer respects the rigid social code of his class and plans to marry one of his own kind, the striking May Welland. But the arrival of the free-spirited Countess Olenska, who breathes clouds of European sophistication, makes him question his formerly complacent life. As he falls ever more deeply in love with her, he discovers just how hard it is to escape the bounds of his society. Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is at once a poignant story of frustrated love and an extraordinarily vivid and satirical portrait of a vanished world. The world's greatest works of literature are now available in these beautiful keepsake volumes. Bound in real cloth, and featuring gilt edges and ribbon markers, these beautifully produced books are a wonderful way to build a handsome library of classic literature. These are the essential novels that belong in every home. They'll transport readers to imaginary worlds and provide excitement, entertainment, and enlightenment for years to come. All of these novels feature attractive illustrations and have an unequalled period feel that will grace the library, the bedside table or bureau.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Collector's Library; New edition edition (1 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904633641
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904633648
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 9.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 436,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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America's greatest woman novelist Sunday Times I love virtually all of Edith Wharton, but this one's my favourite... I admire her prose style, which is lucid, intelligent, and artful rather than arty; she is eloquent but never fussy, and always clear. She never seems to be writing well to show off. As for The Age of Innocence, it's a poignant story that, typically for Wharton, illustrates the bind women found themselves in when trapped hazily between a demeaning if relaxing servitude and real if frightening independence, and that both sexes find themselves in when trapped between the demands of morality and the demands of the heart. The novel is romantic but not sentimental, and I'm a sucker for unhappy endings -- Lionel Shriver There is no woman in American literature as fascinating as the doomed Madame Olenska... Traditionally, Henry James has always been placed slightly higher up the slope of Parnassus than Edith Wharton. But now that the prejudice against the female writer is on the wane, they look to be exactly what they are: giants, equals, the tutelary and benign gods of our American literature -- Gore Vidal Will writers ever recover that peculiar blend of security and alertness which characterizes Mrs. Wharton and her tradition? -- E. M. Forster Wharton's dazzling skills as a stylist, creator of character, ironical observer and unveiler of passionate, thwarted emotions have earned her a devoted following -- Hermione Lee Sunday Times

Book Description

The Age of Innocence' is widely considered to be Edith Wharton's finest novel. It is is also a major film directed by Martin Scorsese. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The emptiness behind the curtain... 19 Mar 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Age of Innocence is a work of beautifully subtle observation and delicacy, but though Edith Wharton paints with pastels, she delivers a vividly moving and meaningful fable on the damage society can inflict on the individual spirit.

What is fascinating about the novel, for me, is how nothing portrayed is at all as it seems, and yet there are never any glaring or obvious revelations or realisations - Wharton creates an environment in which everything is so delicately balanced that the tiniest ripple can assume seismic proportions. Newland Archer, a slave to respectability, and yet a closet dreamer, sees the beauty of the society he lives in, and its hypocrisy, but he never fully appreciates the strength of its ties and strictures until he finds himself drawn to the lovely Ellen Olenska, who symbolises, for him, a freedom and daring that he has never known. His affianced bride, May Welland, pales in comparison - to him she is merely an obedient ornament, a 'curtain dropped before an emptiness,' but he never realises the strength that lies underneath her apparent frailty. It is the steel in May Welland's character that is one of the most interesting aspects of the novel; Ellen Olenska outwardly appears to be a strong, free spirit, who shuns convention, but she is buffeted and bruised by the society that the delicate May Welland represents. May sees far more than Newland ever credits her for, and it seems that his journey through the novel is chiefly about the gradual realisation of all that he has missed. Newland is perhaps the only true innocent in the world he inhabits.

The novel is intensely bittersweet, and there are no clear heroes or villains, only individual strengths and weaknesses operating in an environment where society itself is the deity that controls all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passion and the outsider 25 Mar 2008
It was a glittering, sumptuous time when hypocrisy was expected, discreet infidelity tolerated, and unconventionality ostracized.

That is the Gilded Age, and nobody knew its hypocrises better than Edith Wharton.... and nobody portrayed them as well. "The Age of Innocence" is a trip back in time to the stuffy upper crust of "old New York," taking us through one respectable man's hopeless love affair with a beautiful woman -- and the life he isn't brave enough to have.

Newland Archer, of a wealthy old New York family, has become engaged to pretty, naive May Welland. But as he tries to get their wedding date moved up, he becomes acquainted with May's exotic cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, who has returned home after dumping her cheating husband. At first, the two are just friends, but Newland becomes more and more entranced by the Countess' easy, free-spirited European charm.

After Newland marries May, the attraction to the mysterious Countess and her free, unconventional life becomes even stronger. He starts to rebel in little ways, but he's still mired in a 100% conventional marriage, job and life. Will he become an outcast and go away with the beautiful countess, or will he stick with May and the safe, dull life that he has condemned in others?

There's nothing too scandalous about "Age of Innocence" in a time when starlets acquire and discard boyfriends and husbands like old pantyhose -- it probably wasn't in the 1920s when it was first published. But then, this isn't a book about sexiness and steam -- it's part bittersweet romance, part social satire, and a look at what happens when human beings lose all spontaneity and passion.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Newland Archer, the protagonist of this ironically entitled novel set in the late nineteenth century, is a proper New York gentleman, and part of a society which adheres to strict social codes, subordinating all aspects of life to doing what is expected, which is synonymous with doing what it right. As the author remarks early in the novel, "Few things were more awful than an offense against Taste." Newland meets and marries May Welland, an unimaginative, shallow young woman whose upbringing has made her the perfect, inoffensive wife, one who knows how to behave and how to adhere to the "rules" of the society in which they live.
When Newland is reintroduced to May's cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, who has left her husband in Europe and now wants a divorce, he finds himself utterly captivated by her freedom and her willingness to risk all, socially, by flouting convention. Both Ellen and Newland, however, are products of their upbringing and their culture, however, and they resist their feelings because of their separate social obligations. Various meetings between them suggest that their feelings are far stronger than what is obvious on the surface, and the question of whether either of them will finally state the obvious remains unanswered.
Wharton creates an exceptionally realistic picture of New York in the post-Civil War era, a time in which aristocrats of inherited wealth found themselves competing socially with parvenus. Her ability to show the conflict between a person's desire for freedom and his/her need for social acceptance is striking.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
If you have read "The House of Mirth" then read this this is a follow on.
Published 11 days ago by kiran ali
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book and excellent customer service
Published 19 days ago by MRS D E MCINTYRE
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good
Published 29 days ago by A. Salter
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superbly written novel.
Published 1 month ago by Bookish
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Super read.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs J A Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent reading
Published 2 months ago by R. J. Wheelton
5.0 out of 5 stars The Age of Innocence (Wordsworth Classics)
If you are interested in the depiction of the hypocrisy and futility of 19th century high society then this is the book to read.
Published 5 months ago by biglouis
4.0 out of 5 stars A Five-Star Ending
I've had this book for years but finally got around to reading it, spurred on by the sense that I haven't read enough American classics. I'm awarding 'The Age of Innocence' 4. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Catherine E. Chapman
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it and read it again. Brillaint!
I can read this book again and again and each time I get something new from it. Sometimes i think Newland was right in his decisions NOT to go up at the end as the right time has... Read more
Published 8 months ago by
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring
Great service and all but the story was just boring and outdated, not suitable for more modern readers at all.
Published 8 months ago by Megan Meddings
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