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The Age of Innocence

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Home » Books » Fiction & Literature » Romance » General

The Age of Innocence

By Edith Wharton, Lionel Shriver (Introduction by)

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Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 May 2008
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY LIONEL SHRIVER Newland Archer and May Welland are the perfect couple. He is a wealthy young lawyer and she is a lovely and sweet-natured girl. All seems set for success until the arrival of May's unconventional cousin Ellen Olenska, who returns from Europe without her husband and proceeds to shake up polite New York society. To Newland, she is a breath of fresh air and a free spirit, but the bond that develops between them throws his values into confusion and threatens his relationship with May.

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'I love virtually all of Edith Wharton, but this one's my favourite' Lionel Shriver

About the Author

Edith Wharton was born on 24 January 1862 in New York. She was educated in both America and Europe. In 1885 she married Edward Robbins Wharton. In 1899 she published her first work, a collection of stories called The Greater Inclination. In 1900 she published her first novel, The Touchstone. She wrote many other works including travel writing, home decoration manuals, short stories and her famous novels The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), The Custom of the Country (1913) and The Age of Innocence (1920). She lived in France from 1907. She was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1916 for her work helping refugees there during the war. Edith Wharton died on 11 August 1937.


"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 *

EAN: 9780099511281
ISBN: 0099511282
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 2.1 centimetres (0.22 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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1 review(s)
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Victoria on
This novel wholeheartedly explores one of my favourite literary themes: the struggle for freedom in an oppressive, stifling society. In Wharton's New York of the 1870s we are introduced to the small exclusive set that dominate Fifth Ave society and whose narrow-mindedness and unwillingess to countenance 'unpleasantness' sets the protagonist down a tragic and unfulfilled path. Archer begins the novel thoroughly inculcated with the strict social code of his peers and is engaged to marry the darling of 'good' Manhattan society, May Welland. His perspective is widened by his intereactions with the Countess Olenska, a Welland relation, who has returned to Manhattan in social disgrace after a disastrous (and impliedly abusive) marriage in Europe. Her disdain for social niceities and the confines of all that is 'proper' awakens in Archer dissatisfaction with his own narrow existence.

The Age of Innocence could be described as a 19th century romance, but that would be an oversimplification that does a great disservice to it. The real heart of the novel is the search for a more fulfilling life against the rigors of a society that demands strict conformity to its rules. Wharton's depiction of the Manhattan establishment is brilliant, especially in the way she shows the underhanded social machinations used to enforce conformity and punish those who dare to break the mould.

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