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Wharton, of course, is great. The story is complex, the characters are bitingly satirized, and the setting is detailed, fascinating, and a character unto itself.
The reader, David Horowitch, is mostly excellent too. He does a rather funny flat accent for the New Yorkers and reads quite lyrically. He differentiates his characters and reads passionately.
Bad news: Countess Olenska sounds like Count Dracula. Wharton describes her having a strange accent, Olenska having lived a long time in Europe, but one gets the impression she spent most of her time in France, not in Transylvania. Besides, marrying a man with an accent doesn't mean you automatically acquire one too
Perhaps to make her sound poetical, Horowitch also murmurs all of her dialogue. Unless she's shouting, you have to crank the volume up whenever Olenska speaks, because he murmurs, whispers, or breathes what she says. I wish whoever who mixed this recording had pitched her dialogue higher. Unless you're in a quiet room the entire time you listen to this, you're definitely going to miss what she says at least a dozen times.
But maybe I'm picky. It's still a terrific recording, and Horowitch was by far the best reader I could find with the Audible samples.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
Newland Archer, one of Old New York society's crowned princes (so to speak) is overjoyed about his recent engagement to the perfect May Welland. She too has a perfect pedigree, is a pretty young rose just starting to come into bloom, is innocent and beyond reproach in every way, well trained to be the ideal dutiful wife. But when he gets better acquainted with May's spirited and independent-minded cousin Ellen Olenska, just recently returned from Europe and scandalizing all of New York with her revealing dresses and foreign way of expressing herself and behaving, Newland is at first shocked and then completely taken over with passionate love. So much so that he is in fact determined to drop May and marry the countess Olenska instead. What he forgets to take into account is that his desire to embrace a life of freedom and equality will not be tolerated by his peers. A wonderful look at New York's upper crust in the 1870s, whose lives revolve around being seen at the opera and inviting the right people to dinner parties. Wharton exposes a world she knew firsthand from the distance of the 1920s, and what she shows us is just how regulated life was among the elite in a New York which was cosmopolitan, but prided itself on it's rigid and old fashioned conventions. Because this is Wharton, we know this love story is not likely to end with a Happily Ever After, but along the way she touches on interesting themes and presents us with a fascinating cast of characters who may not be likeable, but don't lack for entertainment value. A story I will definitely revisit in future. This audiobook version was narrated to perfection by David Horovitch and is definitely recommended.
I did not wish to read this book but when I did, I fell in love with it. The writing is brilliant and the book is well structured. Narration in this performance is perfect. Edith Wharton is a consummate story-teller. Read this book and you will realize why she is so highly regarded.
The narrator was decent, but he sometimes used a rather nasal voice for some of the characters and a distractingly strange foreign accent for the Countess Olenska. She's supposed to have a trailing, slightly foreign accent--something more subtle than the one the narrator used.
Avid listener on my daily commute!
With only a few caveats having to do with the audio recording (there are a few glitches) and the narrator's annoying vocal volume decreases for several characters (be prepared to have to replay certain lines and adjust the volume from time to time), I loved this book and looked forward to every opportunity to listen. I've read it before, and adore the excellent Scorcese film with Michelle Pfeiffer, but each exposure to the riches of Wharton's literary jewel brings something new to think about and appreciate. This time, I went back and forth on the issue of who's to blame for Newland Archer's predicament. Archer is his own worst enemy, certainly, and the chain of misfortunes leading to his downfall is sparked by his tendency to be, as my own sweetheart and erstwhile partner in illicit romance put it, "always just a little too late to realize what's really going on" in his own head and heart. This tendency (along with several O. Henry-like twists) is what primarily does him in. But what about New York society, which, anything but innocently, ensnares Archer like a fly in an inescapable web of silently condoned enforced conformity? And what about May? What about her Machiavellian manipulations toward the end of the novel, if not the beginning?
I found myself during this reading doing something I haven't been the least bit tempted to do since my English-major days: I studied up on the literary criticism. I found out that over
the years, the interpretation and critical analysis of The Age of Innocence has changed, keeping step with the attitudes of the times. When the novel was first published, readers and critics alike supported Newland's decisions and May's actions. May's enormous lie to Ellen about her pregnancy was either overlooked or judged to be justified given her circumstances. Ellen, "the other woman," received no sympathy. In 1921, when The Age of Innocence was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the committee declared that The Age of Innocence "best present[ed] the wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood." (REALLY, Pulitzer committee? REALLY??) Even Wharton was taken aback when reviewers failed to see the irony of the novel's title and her (only thinly veiled) social criticism of 1870s New York society. Currently, Wharton's book is admired as a "modern" novel. Sympathy is extended to Ellen as an independent woman, and more criticism is leveled at May's manipulative ways. Feminists cheer Ellen's independence and values; critics generally note that in the entire novel, it may be Ellen and Ellen alone who is innocent in any sense of the word. The varying interpretations but consistent fascination the love-story triangle have made The Age of Innocence a timeless classic.
This certainly won't be my last time listening. Grade: A
Classic Wharton: portrays the high society of 19th c. New York--basically a bunch of idle privileged snobs some of whom are at least intelligent enough to realize that their lives are empty. Lots of subtle description and reflection. The satire is more subdued than in The House of Mirth. Excellent narration.
Wonderful narration and recreation of accents. Great story, a classic.
David sounds as if he has an English accent, which suits this narration. His pacing is perfect. He suggests the accent of the characters without exaggerating too much.
He has revived an old classic, as the movie did.
Stylish. Addictive. Fascinating.
None. I've never read such book before, cause I don't like romances. I find them boring. This one is unique. Apparently calm, but underneath passionate and full of emotions.
Without the doubt - Countess Olenska - an extraordinary woman.
When I realized those two should be together so badly, and the only thing which make them parted is...the age of innocence.
Beautifully filmed by Martin Scorsese. I highly recommend.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
Since I recently read The Great Gatsby for the first time, I found myself comparing the two books and found Age of Innocence easily the winner on all counts. Both deal with the lives and social mores of the idle rich in American society, albeit during slightly different time periods. But Wharton, it seems to me, is much more adept at hinting at the emotions that seethe beneath the practiced, calm surface displayed by the characters. Her characters felt much more fully alive to me, and the situations much more realistic. The cutting sarcasm of the double-entendres made me laugh out loud many times, as she skewered the holier-than-thou attitudes of both the men and women in the tale. And like many of the very best books, this one still resonates today. We may not ostracize divorcees or the artsy crowd as overtly as they did in the 1870’s, but still, we righteously protect institutions like matrimony (c.f. fight over gay marriage) and look down our noses at anyone who is slightly different (is that a nose-ring I see?). The resolution of the book is not what I expected, and the masterful way Wharton brought this tale to an end is what elevated it to 5 stars for me. [N.B. I listened to this as an audiobook read by David Horovitch. His British accent was a bit jarring at first, considering this is an American novel, but he performed the characters with an American accent so after a while I got used to it and was able to submerse myself in the world of the book].
Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.
This is a favorite novel which I am hearing for the first time in audio. The narration is a wonderful surprise and has really enhanced the pleasure of an already beloved text. The reader is British, but uses American consonants and more nasal vowels to distinguish the mostly American dialogue from the narrative text. That distinction, plus his resonant voice and sensitive reading gives an extra level of meaning to the book which focuses on a love triangle in late 19th century New York. The reading illuminates Edith Wharton's particular view of American customs and social distinctions in that period. The characters are rich and well defined by their dialogue, making this perfect as an audiobook. The 'innocence' that characterizes many of the actors in the drama at different moments is a somewhat sarcastic commentary by Edith Wharton whose eye is sharp and whose writing is incisive. This audio is such a pleasure! In an impatient and fretful period when I have been starting books and abandoning them unable to sustain interest, this excellent performance has been like an oasis in the desert. From the moment I sampled the audio I have been unable to put it down. Highly recommended both for the beauty of the prose and its very sensitive reading.
This book conveys you to a lost world. On the surface there is much that was attractive about the life of the wealthy upper class in New York in the 1870s. In this book, however, you are also presented with the constraints and restrictions of what, all too often, was a meaningless life.
Edith Wharton presents you with the agonising choices facing the young, in particular, when passion and the wish for freedom tempts them to flaunt accepted conventions and morality.
The book is beautifully written with many touches of humour.
"A book I won't forget"
This incredibly moving, yet at the same time gentle, tale of thwarted love is beautifully written and very well narrated. The story itself is subtly powerful, and the characters' emotions are conveyed in the writing with a quiet force which I found extremely effective. The language is strikingly poetic, containing beautiful images and metaphors which I found a delight to listen to. The narrator reads with calmness but with real feeling, and I became totally absorbed in it every time I listened. Maybe I'm just susceptible to the charms of this particular book, but I honestly was bowled over by it, and would really recommend anyone to give it a try.
"A wonderful book"
yes, but I am a big audio book fan
The family obligations of the time
Yes in terms of enjoyabilty but No, at 12 hours long probably not
"Sardonic, subtle and absorbing"
I became completely immersed in this novel and loved every minute of it. It is a masterclass in writing, both in style and content. The social niceties of New York in the 1870s is wonderfully evoked and the characters beautifully drawn. Edith Wharton had a keen eye and a sharp wit. The reader, whom I have not come across before, also did a superb job. So many audiobooks are let down by poor narrators, David Horovitch gets it absolutely right. Highly recommended.
"What a Classic!"
At the start I wondered if there was enough of a story to hold me . It's a book where nothing happens but everything is happening. The character depiction is excellent. I'm now watching the movie and loving that too.
"Overall a very good story"
It is well written and well read. The story is interesting and had a good plot. It seems to give a good representation of the upper class New York society which Wharton belonged to in her youth.
"I really enjoyed this! "
I didn't really know what to expect but I absolutely loved this story and enjoyed the narration immensely. I thought the story was superbly woven and I liked the characters. very very enjoyable
Edith Wharton's books are amazing. This is such a melancholy story. The film adaptation is great but lacks the subtleties of the novel.
This was a novel I thought I knew - and the movie is so faithful to its detail and tone, it is possible to believe one has read it already. More than the film, it reveals that Archer is trapped and unhappy from the start. This seemed a flaw and there was an impatience that he seemed so passive and so ill-attuned to his own conscience, but this makes the climax all the more horrifying - there never was an escape - and its ending all the more wise. It is beautifully read.
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