Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

2 stars - finished it, but would have rather done something else
1921 Pulitzer Prize

OK, OK, I know what you're thinking "2 stars! How could you? This is a classic!" 

To which I reply, phffft, not for me, thank you very much. What a train wreck. I was unable to develop any sympathy for either of the main characters, Newland Archer or Ellen Olenski. Ah yes, love unfulfilled. Sad. So much lost time, so much wasted energy, but get over it already. Sheesh.

As a lesson in the morals and manners of upper crust society in the late 19th century, yes, good book, but now that I have finally read it, surely there are better novels to foist on hapless teenagers during high school English. 

The only character for which I felt compassion was May Archer, who managed to maintain a stiff upper lip despite her husband's roving eyes. I wish that Ms. Wharton had developed that character more because despite her outward appearances of being a naively faithful spouse, I am sure there was a strong woman. 

Even the writing style didn't sustain me.

I had originally considered supplementing this with a quick watch of the movie version, but after reading this review on Netflix "Pretty to look at, and just as distracting, but so is a screensaver. Notable for Winona Ryder opening her eyes wider than a giant squid for two hours and getting an Oscar nod for it" well.... I saw the writing on the wall for that one.


  1. I agree with your assessment of the book. Meh. Another summer reading book, and honestly, I was WAY more into Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle' than The Age of Innocence. Oh, and the Pickwick Papers? Maybe I should go back and give that one a second try. I had to rely on Cliff Notes to pass the summer reading test on that one.

    -Dr. Liz, whose boarding school experience was positive, in spite of having to read the Pickwick Papers and the Age of Innocence

  2. I haven't read this one and based on your and Fiona's reviews I think I'll skip it.

  3. Oh, dear! Must disagree. Love Edith Wharton, although The Age of Innocence is not my favorite of her books; try The House of Mirth. Lily Bart is the heroine, a poor young woman on the ragged fringes of society, who is pressured and tempted to marry for security but refuses and hangs on to her self respect and independence, and pays a price. One of my favorite lines in literature comes from The House of Mirth: "The taste of the usual was like ashes in her mouth."

    Wharton is in the Jane Austen - Henry James mold of novels of manners and the myriad tiny details that make up ordinary lives -- the kind of lives most people lead. We may dream of being romantic heroines, but most of us will never live that life and many of us wouldn't really want to.

    The movie was ok, entirely because of Daniel Day Lewis. He's an incredible actor, even playing a fundamentally weak man.


  4. When I pick up a new book I either have watched the movie first or after the fact. In my case, I did both! I know, I know! You are probably cringing right now! Needless to say, I loved the book but I agree that May's character should've been more developed.