I wouldn't say this book was disappointing, but it didn't overwhelm me like some of Wharton's other works, like "Summer." I understood that Wharton was poking fun at the upper class in New York in the early 1900s and a lot of her observations were both keen and humorous; however, it became tedious to read essentially the same conversation over and over. Multiple times various characters talked of scandal within their family and how horrible it all was and how one must keep up appearances, if not for one's own sake, then for that of the family. It also seemed as if every character was somehow related to another. It lent the novel an incestuous feel.
Two people who have barely glimpsed one another and have hardly spoken in depth simply cannot fall in love. Archer's and Ellen's relationship seemed almost as cursory a relationship as Bella's and Edward's from "Twilight," all the moaning and wistful sighs about being together.
In Part II, a strange turn emerges where May, Archer's wife, is suddenly a vacuous husk of a woman in Archer's eyes. Archer comes across as a spoiled and arrogant brat.
What I did appreciate about this book most of all was the very end, where both Archer and Ellen decide to keep their 30-year old memories of each other just as they are rather than befoul them with the aged present. For the same reason, I will never read Wharton's "Summer" again.
In interesting look at the rich of New York in the late 19th century. For the most part, I did not like the characters (more because of the mores of the day, than because of any unusual character flaws), but did appreciate the historic view. Am now reading about Jennie Churchill (who was American, but living in Europe) in the same time period and find the comparisons between the two worlds pretty much the same as described in The Age of Innocence. Worth reading, but perhaps not such "good" old days?
If you saw and enjoyed the movie, you'll love the book. The movie focused on food and the American caste system as it existed in NY in the 1900s. The book has little to contribute relative to the food, but provides some of the background psyche as well as customs of the era. A delightful read and titillating in it's undertone.
this was an interesting visit to another era. A glimpse of a world as it begins to change. I was saddened that I wasn't able to see the true love blossom, but happy to see characters behaving with consideration of others.
"Fashionable New York in the 1870's." This book was, like many classics, a little hard to get into. Im usually not one to enjoy reading the classics as there are too many words and descriptive anecdotes that pass me by. And being a slow reader it is tedious, sometimes, to picture in my mind what the author is trying to convey, especially since I did not live during those times. However, once into the story I wanted to learn more; I wanted to see what was going to happen next and the prose didnt seem as cumbersome after that.
I cant say it was one of my most favorite books, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was an interesting look into the society of the day and having lived in New England most of my life, visiting New York and Boston quite frequently, I can now see that money and society are still alive and well in the Big Apple, even though not as apparent unless you are looking for it. Perhaps the theater areas and around the mansions you might catch a glimpse now and then of old money society: limos, diamond-studded ladies wearing elegant furs, and every now and then someone like the Wellands and Archers with their protruding noses a little higher in the air than those around them. Ah, New York. There is no place like it. Visit sometime if you've never been there! It's a wonderful, fun look at Americana.
One of my favorite Wharton books (I've read almost all of them) and I've read it more than once. You do have to want to read a book like this... similar to Shakespeare I think. Drink in the words slowly.
From back cover:
Winner of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, The Age of Innocencence is Edith Wharton's portrait of desire and betrayal in Old New York. As Newland Archer prepares to marry the docile May Welland, his world is forever changed by the return of the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska. "Wharton's characters...become very real. You know their hearts, souls and yearnings, and the price they pay for those yearnings" (San Francisco Examiner).