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The Age of Innocence Library Binding – Sep 1992

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Product Details

  • Library Binding
  • Publisher: Econo-Clad Books (September 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0808576143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0808576143
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 30.6 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 494 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)

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Somewhere in this book, Wharton observes that clever liars always come up with good stories to back up their fabrications, but that really clever liars don't bother to explain anything at all. This is the kind of insight that makes The Age of Innocence so indispensable. Wharton's story of the upper classes of Old New York, and Newland Archer's impossible love for the disgraced Countess Olenska, is a perfectly wrought book about an era when upper-class culture in this country was still a mixture of American and European extracts, and when "society" had rules as rigid as any in history. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.


"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

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4.4 out of 5 stars

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Clyde Phillips on July 8 2004
Format: Paperback
The reading public must have been taken by shock when, in 1920, Wharton published this novel. Written off by most of the critics and audience of her time as having her best literary years far behind her, she produced what is arguably her most important work. Her story of New York City in the 1870s, where family name and propriety counted as much as accumulated wealth, resonated with readers who were just beginning to catch hints of the looming social revolution that would come later in the decade - and once again shatter time tested institutions. Wharton's looking back to the time of her youth (she was 57 when the book was published) is neither too sentimental nor too critical, but simply a fond remembrance of the time and place in which she lived and, like Madame Olenska, eventually escaped.
However, it is not with Madame Olenska but with Newland Archer that Wharton is closest associated. Belonging to similar social castes, both the author and Newland are able to see the foibles in their social milieu but in no way are ready to discard it totally. Whereas, in the end, both are ready to follow their individual paths from Old New York they are fully aware of what is expected of them as members of this society, and act accordingly. This is the central theme of the novel: individual desire vs. collective propriety. In the hands of a lesser author, this conflict could have resulted in a quite heavy and didactic work - and as interesting as an evening at a needlepoint demonstration. By clothing her novel in the time tested mantle of a love story, she is given rein to employ her talents to the fullest. In short, she re-creates the New York City of the 1870s and peoples it with characters that seem to be historical, not just based on historical models.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chandler Merrell on June 12 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CanadianMother TOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 30 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I will not attempt to recount the happenings of this story, as many other reviewers have already done so, but I did want to say that I enjoyed Silas Marner greatly.

The first George Eliot book I read was The Mill on the Floss, and while that book did present some characters I found interesting, I was extremely disappointed in the tragic and depressing ending. Silas Marner, on the other hand, while it does contain some tragic events, turns around in the second half of the book as things gradually start to go better for Silas, and the ending of the book is satisfying and happy.

I found the relationship between Silas and the young Eppie to be the most heartwarming and enjoyable part of the book. I also enjoyed the conversations Silas had with his simple-minded yet warmhearted neighbour, Dolly. In a way, this book was unusual for a Victorian novel (at least compared to those others I have read) because it dealt with a variety of kinds of human relationships, rather than the male-female romantic relationship that we see more commonly.

Another strong point of this book is its length--unlike many Victorian novels, which are difficult to get through, this book can easily be read through in a few days.

In all, I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in trying out a book by George Eliot. It's much more enjoyable than The Mill on the Floss, although I can't speak for Middlemarch as I haven't read it yet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Jan. 10 2009
Format: Paperback
It was a glittering, sumptuous time when hypocrisy was expected, discreet infidelity tolerated, and unconventionality ostracized.

That is the Gilded Age, and nobody knew its hypocrises better than Edith Wharton.... and nobody portrayed them as well. "The Age of Innocence" is a trip back in time to the stuffy upper crust of "old New York," taking us through one respectable man's hopeless love affair with a beautiful woman -- and the life he isn't brave enough to have.

Newland Archer, of a wealthy old New York family, has become engaged to pretty, naive May Welland. But as he tries to get their wedding date moved up, he becomes acquainted with May's exotic cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, who has returned home after dumping her cheating husband. At first, the two are just friends, but Newland becomes more and more entranced by the Countess' easy, free-spirited European charm.

After Newland marries May, the attraction to the mysterious Countess and her free, unconventional life becomes even stronger. He starts to rebel in little ways, but he's still mired in a 100% conventional marriage, job and life. Will he become an outcast and go away with the beautiful countess, or will he stick with May and the safe, dull life that he has condemned in others?

There's nothing too scandalous about "Age of Innocence" in a time when starlets acquire and discard boyfriends and husbands like old pantyhose -- it probably wasn't in the 1920s when it was first published. But then, this isn't a book about sexiness and steam -- it's part bittersweet romance, part social satire, and a look at what happens when human beings lose all spontaneity and passion.
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