At the risk of offending the literary world, this is the slowest piece of fiction I have ever read. The story is about New York, circa 1880, and the stuffiness of the elite class.
The author descibed her characters succintly in Chapter 33 when she wrote " It was the old New York way of taking life " without effusion of blood": the way of people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than scenes, except the behaviour of those who gave rise to them".
The plot centers upon a engaged lawyer, Newland Archer. From one of the finest families in New York, he falls for an exotic beauty with a scandalous past, the Countess Olenska, who also happens to be his fiance's cousin.
The young man struggles with whether he settles into the staid and boring life that his family name and status have earned him surrounded by people he despises, or does he follow his heart. He defends the charcter of the mysterious and exotic Countess Olenska, who is scorned by both family and friends. The Countess, equally in love with Archer, makes the hard decision to let Archer go so he can fulfill the life that has been planned for him.
Beautifully written but dreadfully slow.