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Exclusively from Audible
Countess Ellen Olenska, separated from her European husband, returns to old New York society. She bears with her an independence and an awareness of life which stirs the educated sensitivity of the charming Newland Archer, engaged to be married to her cousin, May Welland. Though he accepts the society's standards and rules he is acutely aware of their limitations. He knows May will assure him a conventional future but Ellen, scandalously separated from her husband, forces Archer to question his values and beliefs. With their love intensifying where does Archer's ultimate loyalty lie?
Wharton's audiobook is a love story that accurately portrays upper-class New York society in the late 19th century due to her insider's view of America's privileged classes. Having grown up in upper-class society, Wharton ended up becoming one of its most shrewd critics. Her depiction of the snobbery and hypocrisy of the wealthy elite, combined with her subtle use of dramatic irony, propelled The Age of Innocence to the position of an instant classic, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 and making Wharton the first woman to win the prize.
Having studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, David Horovitch has had a television career spanning over 40 years. One of his most notable roles was in 1984 as Detective Inspector Slack in the first BBC Miss Marple adaptation The Body in the Library. Due to the success of his character, he returned for four Christmas specials. He has had roles in other shows such as Just William (1994), Foyle's War (2002) and Wire in the Blood (2005) as well as film appearances in The Young Victoria (2009), 102 Dalmatians (2000) The Infiltrator (2016) and Mike Leigh's Mr Turner (2014). A long time star of the stage, in 2015 he played the role of George Frideric Handel in All the Angels by Nick Drake at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. As well as narrating numerous audiobooks, David Horovitch also appeared in Audible's multicast drama The Oedipus Plays.
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.
44 of 47 people found this review helpful
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.
34 of 37 people found this review helpful
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.
14 of 17 people found this review helpful
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.
12 of 15 people found this review helpful
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.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Age of Innocence again? Why?
Wonderful narration and recreation of accents. Great story, a classic.
What about David Horovitch’s performance did you like?
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.
Any additional comments?
He has revived an old classic, as the movie did.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up The Age of Innocence in three words, what would they be?
Stylish. Addictive. Fascinating.
What other book might you compare The Age of Innocence to and why?
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.
Which character – as performed by David Horovitch – was your favorite?
Without the doubt - Countess Olenska - an extraordinary woman.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
When I realized those two should be together so badly, and the only thing which make them parted is...the age of innocence.
Any additional comments?
Beautifully filmed by Martin Scorsese. I highly recommend.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
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].
8 of 11 people found this review helpful
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.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
The unexpected thing about this story, for me, was seeing that the "age" being referred to was not only about a certain time of life, but also about a point in history where one could look back to the previous generation and witness a huge gap in attitude and perception. It starts with horse-drawn buggies, hand-written notes, etc. and ends with telephones and automobiles. To see this sort of change in one's lifetime must have been really amazing.
There is also a Scorsese film version of this with Daniel Day-Lewis. It's definitely worth watching but it bothered me a little that the two heroines were swapped (the raven-haired temptress in the book is played by Michelle Pheiffer).
7 of 10 people found this review helpful
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.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
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.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Age of Innocence to be better than the print version?
yes, but I am a big audio book fan
What did you like best about this story?
The family obligations of the time
Which character – as performed by David Horovitch – was your favourite?
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes in terms of enjoyabilty but No, at 12 hours long probably not
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Edith Wharton's books are amazing. This is such a melancholy story. The film adaptation is great but lacks the subtleties of the novel.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I so enjoyed this audio book. The beautiful language so wonderfully read by David Horovitch. No fast moving plot but such intense exploration of frustrated thoughts at a time of stifling social propriety.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful