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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Age of InnocenceThe Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Winner of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, The Age of Innocence is Edith Wharton’s masterful portrait of desire and betrayal during the sumptuous Golden Age of Old New York, a time when society people “dreaded scandal more than disease.”

This is Newland Archer’s world as he prepares to marry the beautiful but conventional May Welland. But when the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after a disastrous marriage, Archer falls deeply in love with her. Torn between duty and passion, Archer struggles to make a decision that will either courageously define his life—or mercilessly destroy it."

My Review:

This book was really educating in the use of wit, observation, and overt description of personalities and environment to convey the tone of the victorian age of society. Edith Wharton's writing style is elaborate, yet the overall comprehension flows beautifully as the world is seen through Newland Archer's eyes. Newland must deal with the customs of New York society, as disgusted as he may feel towards some of them, and watches as "a haunting horror of doing the same thing every day at the same hour besieged his brain." (40) It is because of these monotonous "innocent" customs that he feels a deep love towards Ellen Olenski, as it is in her nature to sort of go against the grain and flout from the victorian age New York society. The ending was, to me, unexpected and was quite a disappointment as it left me hanging with the uncertainty of Newland Archer's fate and happiness. In all, the book was beautifully written and told in a matter that called for a reevaluation and the reformation of how we act and think in our society.

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"'Women ought to be free--as free as we are,' he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences." (20)

"What could he and she really know of each other, since it was his duty, as a "decent" fellow, to conceal his past from her, and hers, as a marriageable girl, to have no past to conceal. What if, for some one of the subtler reasons that would tell with both of them, they should tire of each other, misunderstand or irritate each other?" (21)

"'We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?'
'Why not--why not--why not?'" (39)

"Ah, no, he did not want May to have that kind of innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imagination and the heart against experience!" (68)

"There was no use in trying to emancipate a wife who had not the dimmest notion that she was not free..." (90)

Kindle Edition169 pages
Published (first published 1920)


  1. I read this for a bookclub a long time ago. I quite enjoy Wharton's writing, but things aren't always easy or happy! We had quite a bit to discuss though. :) Very nice review. I love that you pull all the quotes.

  2. Sounds interesting. Never heard of this one before but i'm sure you'll enjoy it.


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