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The Age of Innocence (Wordsworth Classics) [Paperback]

Edith Wharton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 1994 Wordsworth Classics

This Wordsworth Edition includes an exclusive Introduction and Notes by Stuart Hutchinson, University of Kent at Canterbury.

Widely regarded as one of Edith Wharton's greatest achievements, The Age of Innocence is not only subtly satirical, but also a sometimes dark and disturbing comedy of manners in its exploration of the 'eternal triangle' of love.

Set against the backdrop of upper-class New York society during the 1870s, the author's combination of powerful prose combined with a thoroughly researched and meticulous evocation of the manners and style of the period, has delighted readers since the novel's first publication in 1920.

In 1921 The Age of Innocence achieved a double distinction - it won the Pulitzer Prize and it was the first time this prestigious award had been won by a woman author.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New edition edition (1 July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853262102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853262104
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.6 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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 an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 56 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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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
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 independence and her willingness to risk all, socially, by flouting convention. Both Ellen and Newland 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 they will finally state the obvious or act on their feelings constitutes the plot.
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 need for social acceptance and the desire for personal freedom is striking.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good
Published 8 days ago by A. Salter
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superbly written novel.
Published 23 days 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 1 month 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 4 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 4 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 7 months ago by esther_mckenna@yahoo.co.uk
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 7 months ago by Megan Meddings
2.0 out of 5 stars Most outdated book
The book is so much outdated that it has no connection whatsoever with today's world. I do not think I will ever finish it.
Published 7 months ago by ALGIS SVEIKAUSKAS
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT her best work in my opinion
I was a bit disappointed with this novel, which is odd given that popular opinion has it that this might be the author's best work. I would beg to differ on that point. Read more
Published 9 months ago by E. A. Banks
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