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The Age of Innocence (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – 30 May 1996
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"Is it--in this world--vulgar to ask for more? To entreat a little wildness, a dark place or two in the soul?"--Katherine Mansfield
"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
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
The novel is broadly set in New York at about the end of the First World War. Wharton's characters are wealthy, upper middle class and striving to maintain the social mores that define their social milieu. Her characters organise exclusive social gatherings, attend the opera and gossip about the behaviour and fortune of each other. The two protagonists that potentially disrupt and shake up the attitude and behaviour of this group are Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska. Ellen, a member of the Welland family, has lived in Europe in an unhappy marriage to one count Olenska. She returns to New York apparently to escape the count's depravity and ultimately obtain a divorce. Ellen represents the outsider who perhaps unwittingly disrupts the cosy social life of her family and their friends. Newland Archer, a young lawyer engaged to May Welland, a cousin of Ellen Olenska, is given the task of persuading Ellen not to seek a divorce from her husband. A divorce would undermine the family's standing in their social context.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautiful cover edition of a tragic story of a woman trapped in a marriage. Her rebellion is at times futile and highlights the advantages of today's society. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Warning: contain spoilers!
A good novel is not just a story which entertains, helps you pass the time and leaves you with no trace of intellectual imprints except of the... Read more
Wonderful book with many levels of insight and meaning. Am really pleased to have read it at last.Published 4 months ago by yana
Wonderful- beautifully written. I'd read it many years ago and enjoyed it but perhaps hadn't appreciated the quality of the writing.Published 4 months ago by Lesley
Beautifully written, poignant. Not a book to be read too quickly lest you miss the nuances and the heart-rending turning points in this love affair of its time.Published 4 months ago by Spocklet
I am finding this tedious to read but I intend to perseverePublished 5 months ago by Marion Hinchley