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Publisher's Summary

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.

Narrator Biography

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.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What members say

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A Thoroughly Good Read

A well crafted story about 'the eternal triangle,' with an unforeseen conclusion. Edith Wharton paints her characters realistically, to the point where I felt as though I was personally involved with their story. David Horovith's narration greatly enhanced the pleasure of the listen. A book I will certainly re-read at a future date.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Lah-di-dah New York Society Folks -- Exquisite!

This gorgeous novel will be like watching paint dry for many people. A few years ago I would have thrown the print version across the room unless of course it were a college assignment. I was too impatient and too passionate for this stuff! Now I find this literature delicious. The narrator is wonderful, dropping down to nearly a whisper when he is voicing the main character's thoughts while the main character is in the same elegant room with his terribly correct blond wife. [This is done in music: dropping to a pale thread of melody for emphasis.] I love Mr. Horovitch's voice, and I feel sure he would have fit right in with these 1870's New York mucky-mucks! I found no flaws in his reading. After two listens, I can only appreciate how much I still didn't get. And not his fault; I was attempting some fiddly knitting! As to the Countess' foreign accent, I've known women who grew up in the U.S. but sounded French or Irish, a bit quaint, maybe because they didn't watch TV or stoop to saying "yeah" and "gonna go" and "gotta go"! One was Canadian-born, very spiritual, had worked in legal, so of course her speech patterns were unique. The Countess had lived overseas for many years. When you're speaking English to foreigners, you try to avoid slang and speak clearly so they can understand. Practiced over years, this would make someone sound a bit odd. At any rate, this little accent helps to portray the exotic and exciting appeal of the countess to the main character who loves the countess but married the correct boring blond that his family approved of. And that is the story: which woman, how, why?

Wharton's masterpiece explores an idea that I have heard called "negative good," i.e., staying out of trouble, being very cautious and correct, never impulsive, looking good to one's social set, never making trouble, setting a good example. My friend's French chef boyfriend ran a fancy private club "and nobody got sick" she told me. Okay, but was the food really good? Did he revise the menu or redecorate or greet people? A relative was hoping to work as an arson investigator, and boy was he squeaky-clean with a frightening kind of correctness, always holding back the good deeds that others reach out to do with such passion. Activists and child welfare workers may often appear unkempt. Our main character is fascinated by the brunet Countess and marries the safe and predictable blond who enjoys sport but has no use for literature, art museums, the life of the mind. The Countess wants a divorce, which would cause unpleasantness for -- oh, All New York Society -- and what would people think? It just is not done! And so . . . at one point late in the book, a farewell dinner is given by the blond wife for the Countess, who is going back to Paris to live, alone, no Polish count husband but not divorced, either. And with a female companion of course! As the guests converse politely and toast the Countess, the main character suddenly realizes that they all assume he and the Countess had been lovers! The wife is far more clever than he had guessed! And the two had been so good! They had suffered so much! And sacrificed. The book then moves forward many years, ideas change, lifestyles change, and the Countess comes back in briefly. Other listeners will have as many ideas about this classic as there are listeners and repeated listens. Save time for the last two hours, and especially the last four minutes.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Alison
  • Brinston, ONTARIO, Canada
  • 03-17-15

surprisingly compelling

I bought this book on sale and wasn't really sure I was going to get into it, but I found myself quickly attracted to the struggles of the main character. It was easy to be swept along with Archer from youth and optimism, from thinking that the world and society could be anything that you might make of it, from believing you can determine your own fate, to the realization that society will find a way to mold you into a thing that fits. It's a slow, inexorable decline, and I felt for him every step of the way. I was almost in tears at the end, which is pretty rare for me. Now, I can definitely see classrooms of high school students hating this book as they are forced into essays about 'the role of flowers as gifts' or 'social norms versus trends' but outside the classroom setting, I quite liked it.

The narrator did a mostly adequate job, but I'm not sure why they had a British narrator do the definitely American story. Why not get an American? Horovitch tried an American accent for the dialogue, but didn't do a great job, I don't know anyone who puts an 'r' sound after vowels. No one I know would pronounce it "Olensker".

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Stylish writing

Edith Wharton's writing is perfection. Crisp, creative adjectives. I've read it twice in the past. Listening is even better because you can't be in a hurry to finish the chapter. You hear every nuanced word.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Being a Fly on the Wall in The Gilded Age

In my early college days I took a course in British literature from Dr Wyatt, who told me that history records the events, biographies, and ideas of previous years while literature communicates the emotions and thinking of the participants in those times. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton validates Dr. Wyatt's hypothesis. In 1921, Edith Wharton was the first female author to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

Wharton uses many literary devices to communicate the culture of the very rich during the Gilded Age. Her word pictures are created with multi syllable pretentious words that reflect the pretentions of wealthy of that time. Her discussion of characters repeatedly describe subtle failures to meet the norms of their society. For instance, One of her characters gossips about another who is so low class that her bedroom is on the first floor of her mansion as opposed to more appropriately being on the second floor. The Age of Innocence captures with every page how many culture customs and sanctions people a part of that small and short lived period of history had to master to remain in good standing. The language makes the reader feel the repression of feelings that everyone was expected to exhibit. Because the story spans a generation and focuses on one family, the reader discovers how quickly the norms and customs change. This is the universal and timeless truth that makes The Age of Innocence a classic.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Narration

If you could sum up The Age of Innocence in three words, what would they be?

Romance resisted, relished

What other book might you compare The Age of Innocence to and why?

Mrs. Dalloway. Emotionally interior navigation upperclass society

Have you listened to any of David Horovitch’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Only in samples, but this one by far the best because of the pacing

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The ending - no spoilers here

Any additional comments?

I'm reviewing this book mainly because of David Horovitch's delightful performance. It's on the slow side which lets the story breath. If you tend to find yourself feeling hammered by relentless-sounding narrators, you will find this performance to be a relief. There's time to have an emotional or thoughtful reaction to the story as it unfolds and I didn't find myself losing track or zoning out. As I like to paint while I listen to audio books so my attention is split and variable, I sometimes find classic books that I would enjoy in print "too hard" to be enjoyable as audiobooks. Horovitch breathes life into this story in a way that it never feels dull, dry or sluggish...though of course the credit here must be shared with Edith Wharton. Her wry depiction of the New York high society mores of the late 19th century century feels fresh and relevant to our present time. I wish there were more performances of this caliber available.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Deborah
  • AUSTIN, TX, United States
  • 10-09-12

Performance did not work for me

The narrator is a skilled reader by most technical criteria. However, I found the overall tone inappropriate for a novel of manners. There is a humorless sense of foreboding that might work in a horror novel but lost me. Although I was enjoying the content I could not get through more than a couple of chapters

2 of 6 people found this review helpful

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a wonderful period drama

Not usually a listener to this genre, but am a fan of author's ghost stories. Enjoyed it , something wonderfully old fashioned.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful!

I have pretty much listened to all the versions of The Age of Innocence and I have to say I think this is the best! David Horovitch's narration is so clear and elegant that I could really understand the nuances in scenes that I could never pick up before. I feel as if I'm listening to a newly discovered addition of the novel! It has been my tradition to read, listen or watch TAI every few years and I now have my go-to audio version! Such a wonderful, sad and moving tail of a bygone society and the universal topics of living within that society's rules and norms. Sad but compelling at the same time. It will remain one of my top 10 classics!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • Ventura, CA, United States
  • 09-26-15

Really Enjoyable

Any additional comments?

I don't usually read fiction, so this book was a change for me. I really enjoyed the story, one that is applicable to any time or group, even though it was set in high society in New York. The narrator had the right voice for the book, but unfortunately, he would whisper at key parts and it was impossible to hear him and understand what he was saying.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful