Newland Archer, Wharton's protagonist, is charming, tactful, enlightened - a thorough product of this society. He accepts its standards and abides by its rules, but he also recognizes its limitations. His engagement to the impeccable May Welland assures him of a safe and conventional future, until the arrival of May's cousin Ellen Olenska.
Independent, free-thinking, and scandalously separated from her husband, Ellen forces Archer to question the values and assumptions of his narrow world. As their love for each other grows, Archer has to decide where his ultimate loyalty lies.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
A masterpiece of literary construction. There doesn't seem to be a word, sentence, or page out of place. At its core, 'The Age of Innocence' is story that shows the strength and the orchestrated customs and mores of social upper-class society of the 1870s, but also shows its narrowness, its contradictions, and its inflexibility. Inserted into this setting is a frustrated love story (almost a love triangle). It is the this frustration that illuminates the tensions between the coming modern age and the Victorian society that is united in its desire to keep the world from spinning forward and apart.
This narration of Edith Wharton's classic novel is a genuine masterpiece. The voice is so exactly right, making the most of the elegant prose. The story line may be dated, but questions raised are timeless: how much of our thinking is controlled by our desire to maintain standing with our peers, and how do we balance personal responsibility with pursuit of personal fulfillment.
What if you fell in love with someone you can not have, despite the fact that she loves you in the same manner. You're married but can't get a divorce to persue your love because in this time, your social standing is more important than your personal happiness. Crazy ! I know ! but this is the time period in which the story takes place. Amazingly well written, which perfectly describes the time period and the characters. I can understand why this book is regarded as one of the finest books of the 20th century.
This is a period novel set in 1870s Upper Manhattan. The main character, Newland Archer, has just enough awareness to realize that his wife and his high society is constraining and boring, and not enough independence or determination to do much more than flirt with the notion of leaving either. So everyone lives very proper lives and we get lots of descriptions of people and places and table settings. Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for her portrayal of this society, and she describes the rich families of 19th century New York and their tribal customs with breezy but anthropological detail. This is a time and place where the color of the dress you wear to the opera or the soup you serve as a first course is fraught with social implications. Wharton describes the inner lives and outer appearance of her characters and the world they live in in minute detail, but ultimately, I just did not find them very interesting, and the plot was an almost superfluous element.
The Age of Innocence is all wistful self-examination that never goes very deep, and a lot of delicate interactions between rich people who communicate in code. If you're fascinated by inner turmoil, marital angst, and 19th century etiquette, this book may be for you, but I found the lack of any real drama, the fact that all the characters were cut from the same cloth, and the stifling circumscription of the setting made for a dull book.
So, I didn't enjoy The Age of Innocence much, but that's completely because of my subjective tastes. I'm sure other people love it for reasons that are good and fine to them. Objectively, Wharton's writing is vivid and descriptive and at times there is a sparkle of wit and a flash of humor, though I wish I'd seen more of it, and she really brings the setting to life and makes us understand the characters to their depths. (Not a great challenge, as there isn't much depth to them -- this is not a knock on Wharton's characterization, but on the people she is describing.)
It was my first audio book to listen to while I was going to sleep. I've long intended to read this book, but it was much nicer to be read to.
Her voice was appealing, and she read the various roles quite well.
The terribly constricting society of the time was well defined.
It needed serious editing. Three hours into it I wanted to stop. I was gagging on all the extraneous, unnecessary babbling. Just because you use big words doesn't mean you are saying anything.
No. She is too robotic.
All the extraneous characters.
I listened to this book to the end to see if it had any redeeming qualities. When the author sticks to the relationships between Archer, Ellen, and May and the immediate family you can follow along and understand the story and their internal struggles. So I did get something from the book. But I cannot recommend this book. I don't care for the author's writing style, nor for the narrator's reading of it.
I didn't get very far into this audio, because the sentence structures and character tangles are far too complicated for passive listening. Since the failure of this audiobook, I've made it a policy to read (from an actual book!) classics and texts that may have lots of footnotes/etc. I can't recommend this as an audiobook, and cannot comment on the story itself as I have yet to read it.
Character description was way over the top in length and vocabulary. You need a pocket dictonary while reading.
Yes, very very very slow!
I could not make it past the third chapter.
Once again, I chose this book based on good reviews, not always so...
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