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The Age of Innocence

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3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  101,873 Ratings  ·  4,390 Reviews
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
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Paperback, 305 pages
Published August 26th 2004 by Barnes & Noble Classics (first published 1920)
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Jaie It depends on what you consider "clean". This is a complex book about social constraints, demands and duty vs feelings and desires, I would not advice…moreIt depends on what you consider "clean". This is a complex book about social constraints, demands and duty vs feelings and desires, I would not advice it for kids under 15, mainly because I presume it would not be of interest to them. Also, keep in mind that Romeo and Juliet is a classic taught in 9th grade, and it depicts teen sex and suicide. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Emily May
May 17, 2015 Emily May rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favourites
“We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?”

A few years ago, I read The Age of Innocence and thought it was okay. It has something of an Austen-esque feel - criticisms of middle/upper middle class society, paired with a subtle and clever humour and a love story (here deliciously scandalous). But it's taken me a few years to come back to this novel and appreciate the magic Wharton has brought to the table.

This little book is so clever. Everything about it from the damn title to nea
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Amanda
Apr 20, 2011 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kick-ass, blog
Part of why I love The Age of Innocence so much is for the very reason my students hate it--the subtlety of action in a society constrained by its own ridiculous rules and mores. In Old New York, conformity is key and the upper-crust go about a life of ritual that has no substance or meaning. Both men and women are victims in this world as both are denied economic, intellectual, and creative outlets. All the world's a stage in Wharton's New York and everyone wears a mask of society's creation. S ...more
Sabah
Mar 22, 2016 Sabah rated it it was amazing
There is so much to love about this novel. It is as mesmeric as a work of art. A masterpiece of impressionism.

For, in characteristics, this novel rivals the works of Degas, Cezanne, Monet and Renoir, requiring the reader to deeply contemplate Edith Wharton’s superlative ability in utilising a radical approach in bringing to life the subject matter of New York’s Upper class society in the nineteenth century. She applies prodigiously rich, opulent, bright and hedonistic detail in a technically sk
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Paul Bryant
May 31, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Yes indeedy, what could be more jejune than another early 20th century novelist choosing as her subject the problematic relations between the sexes amongst the idle rich? D H Lawrence and Henry James do the same, the first like a big dog gnawing at a bone and finding something it mistakes for God in the marrow, and the latter in his infinite cheeseparings putting the whole thing into the form of a three-dimensional chess game played by sardonic French subatomic particle physicists who you suspec ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Aug 18, 2015 Jr Bacdayan rated it really liked it
“Each time you happen to me all over again.”

Imagine that person you love most in this world, right within your grasp, but somehow out of reach. An invisible thin wall keeping you apart. Apart but not away from each other. Together yet not with each other. This is the worst form of torture, a torture of invisible chains and soundless screams. Constantly seeing each other, constantly being reminded of what cannot be. Constantly falling in love yet constantly falling apart. The urge, the love, the
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Mar 14, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Nobody comes to mind...
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Pulitzer for fiction 1921
Heading for a hospital stay I decided to treat myself to a pleasant historical novel with a dash of romance. BIG mistake, if this is romantic take me to the nunnery….Okay, the ugliness of the story is offset by the beauty of the writing, and it is gorgeous, I'd read this author again - but still. This isn’t so much a review as an attempt to purge this pile of hooey from my subconscious.
1st off the main protagonist Newland Archer is a celebration of hypocrisy. A man who makes a CLEAR choice (vie
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Shovelmonkey1
Dec 04, 2013 Shovelmonkey1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Before writing this review I decided to find out a bit more about Edith Wharton. Turns out that she is actually a lot more interesting than some of her books. If you turn to the Wikipedia page (not exactly hardcore research, I know but I'm not in a position to march off to the library and start wading through Wharton's presumably numerous biographies) you'll be faced with a picture of a timid and pretty dour looking lady with two disagreeable looking Paris-Hilton porta-dogs plonked on her knee. ...more
Cheryl
Feb 14, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of life
The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.

Just when I think a classic unlikely to give me pause, it surprises me with relatable themes. After reading Wharton's short story, "The Muse's Tragedy" (one of the supplemental reads I'll be teaching this Fall), I knew I had to visit one of her longer forms. So rewarding it was, to be wooed by elegant prose and positioning; a plot that moves in practiced laps; a story that could be yours, mine, theirs; a setting that will always be known for bot
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Catie
Nov 23, 2011 Catie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catie by: Jo
The title of this book is now one of my favorites of all time. At first glance, it seems so dry, so suggestive of sweeping historical detail. It made me think of the fond memories of an age gone by – how quaint, how rosy-hued and idealistic it all was. Summoning the vague ideas that I had about 1920’s New York, I pictured smoky clubs and laughing ladies in fur-lined cloaks and peacock feather hats.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever come across another title so seemingly innocuous, yet so absolutely loa
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KOHEY.Y.
Dec 07, 2015 KOHEY.Y. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know that this novel has been played often by Takarazuka Ballet,the all-female Japanese musical theater troupe,so it must be more of a sugary,insipid typical love triangle.Yes,it is a love story,but it is much more than that.

The main plot is a tragic love story,but with the conflict of values and ethics in life and society.I'd say this is the strong and beautiful point of this classic.Through the culture clash between Europe and America (here I mean New York),and the rise and fall of the then
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Henry Avila
May 18, 2014 Henry Avila rated it really liked it
Newland Archer, has the perfect life, rich , young, and good looking, a member in excellent standing, of the New York High Society of 1871, during the Golden Age. These people feel not like prisoners but brave members of a group, keeping back the barbarians at the gate. Newland is engaged to a beautiful, charming girl, May Welland, also in the exclusive association, who loves him. But then her cousin arrives, from Europe, Countess Ellen Olenska, married to a brute, a Polish nobleman, who repeate ...more
Mary
Jun 25, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012
This was the first book I've read from Edith Wharton and it was better than I was expecting. The images of 1870's New York are rich and chilling and it's central theme so relevant and relatable.

Newland Archer aches with the constraints of his time and the absurdity and hypocrisy of the society in which he lives. He longs to break free and yet ultimately lives a life of quiet remorse. It struck me just how little has changed in that regard. Most people still fall into a conventional life simply
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Paul
Oct 23, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and seem to be developing a penchant for reading books which drift along in a sedate way and in which not much appears (on the surface) to happen. Appearances are deceptive though and Wharton’s prose is beautiful and the dialogue sharp, and with depth of meaning.
The novel is set in high society New York in the 1870s; a social milieu where convention reigned on the surface, but where some of the men had slightly scandalous secrets. Newland Archer and May Welland and about to be
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Mike Puma
“The immense accretion of flesh which had descended on her in middle life like a flood of lava on a doomed city had changed her from a plump active little woman with a neatly-turned foot and ankle into something as vast and august as a natural phenomenon.” Does writing get any finer than that?

And some say:
A) the Edith Wharton is boring, while others say...
B) she had no sense of humor.

I'd say: She was behind me at the grocery store today and saw the same thing I saw.
Apatt
Nov 16, 2015 Apatt rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
“The longing was with him day and night, an incessant undefinable craving, like the sudden whim of a sick man for food or drink once tasted and long since forgotten. He could not see beyond the craving, or picture what it might lead to, for he was not conscious of any wish to speak to Madame Olenska or to hear her voice. He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less empty.”
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Phrynne
Sep 15, 2015 Phrynne rated it liked it
Beautifully written of course but not an especially interesting story. Newman Archer is actually a very unlikeable person although obviously a symptom of the society in which he was raised. I felt sorry for all of them because in the end no one was really happy. A bit depressing really. I do like the way Edith Wharton writes but sadly this book did not really do it for me.
Mona
Jul 21, 2015 Mona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tragic Tale of a Man Suffocated by Convention in 1870s New York



Newland Archer, a promising young lawyer growing up in the cream of New York society, is engaged to May Welland. Everyone around him considers this to be a brilliant match.

Except that May's cousin, Ellen Olenska, arrives from Europe, and Newland finds himself drawn to Ellen. Ellen, a native New Yorker, is fleeing a bad marriage abroad. She is beautiful, kind, and entirely unpretentious.

Newland, though, is trapped in what is expected
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Sidharth Vardhan
“The real loneliness is living among all these kind people who only ask one to pretend!”


I’m not much into romantic stories – I mean how much of ‘Ellen, I love you’ and ‘Newland, it is wrong’ one can bear? More so, love triangles – and I mn why they call it love triangles. Just look at this one – Archer has relations with May and Ellen but the two women do not love each other, so where is the third side of triangle? Shouldn’t it be called love angle or love V. In fact, if you think about it, a
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Kim
Dec 19, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

Mostly I finish books I start, but when I first tried reading this novel twenty-five to thirty years ago, I don't think I made it past page five. I have a vague memory of seeing the film adaptation back in the 1990s, but it clearly didn't inspire me to return to the novel. So I'm not sure what made me decide to acquire and listen to the audiobook so many years later. However, I'm glad I did.

I knew that Wharton had written a novel critical of the world from which she sprang - late 19th century N
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Matthew
Jan 05, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a gorgeous book with some great characters and a special ambience that I haven't experienced in any other novel. Edith Wharton takes the reader deep inside the strange little world of upper-class late 19th century New York, detailing the manners, the attitudes, the rules, the institutionalized hypocrisy, the spectacular beauty and superficiality, and most of all, the lies that everyone must tell themselves and those around them to survive in a tightly regimented culture that has just bar ...more
Hana
Into the grand, placidly self-satisfied world of New York Society in the 1870s comes a near-outsider, a woman born to an acceptable family but raised in Europe by an eccentric peripatetic aunt and now rumored to be estranged from her husband, a wealthy Polish count. Like a stone tossed into a still pond, Countess Ellen Olenska's arrival will send ripples across the silvery surface, moving ever outwards, while far below something deeper may stir and change.

"There was something perverse and provoc
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Anne
"He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less empty."



I believe that the best kind of books are those which one does not expect to fall in love with, but undeniably do. You know, the ones that have been sitting on the shelf for ages and that you just finally pick up on a whim, having no idea what to expect but thinking you might enjoy it? Then you start it and all of a sudde
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Madeline
Nov 27, 2012 Madeline rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-list
It's time to get something off my chest, guys: I love Gossip Girl.

But Madeline! you exclaim, probably choking on a biscuit and dropping your teacup because you are one refined gentleman or lady, didn't you write a scathing review of the first Gossip Girl back in 2008 where you ranked it below goddamn Twilight on the scale of Books That Should Not Be Considered Books?

Ah yes, my little blueberries, how right you are. Gossip Girl, the book, is pulpy badly-written trash that fails to even fulfill th
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Darcy
Mar 09, 2009 Darcy rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zanna
Feb 10, 2016 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second Wharton and I'm glad I came back. This window on the elite society of 1870s' New York City from the vantage point of 1920 combines a very finely textured ambiance and naturalism that make it a convincing portrait of a milieu of the moment, with a fresh, tidily ornamented prose and modern sensibility that completely eschews the ponderous and (to me) irritating convolutions of much 19th century writing (especially the North American style, which grates on me so badly I can't face ...more
Glenn Sumi
A masterpiece.

Newland Archer, a young lawyer, is engaged to be married to May Welland, a sweet but (he soon comes to realize) rather limited girl. Their two families are prominent ones in 1870s Manhattan so everything is as it should be. And then Archer meets Countess Ellen Olenska, a childhood sweetheart and May's cousin, who is back in NYC after fleeing a disastrous marriage in Europe. She is unconventional, beautiful, and shares Newland's interest in art and books. Can you guess what happens
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Fenia
Nov 05, 2014 Fenia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another book finished in one day. (Am I a book machine or what?) Another marvellous classic. Loved it!! Though I would have preferred a happy ending. But we can't have it all,can we? Anyway,brilliant book. "Each time you happen to me all over again." this quote is..WOW. i can't even express my admiration for this quote.
Richard Derus
May 16, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Book Report: Society marriages and mores of 1870s New York. Very beautifully constructed. Pusillanimous young lawyer marries frail, fainting flower with a rod of steel up her backside, falls in love with her cousin, and no one gets away happy.

My Review: I've always said mixed marriages don't work. Expecting someone not like you in fundamental, crucial ways to "get" you, to support you, to really be there for you, is not a good bet. Men do not need to be marrying women. Th
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وضحى
Aug 29, 2015 وضحى rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
يا لها من رواية! وكأنها تواكب رواية إيزابيل ألليندي "ابنة الحظ" التي حاولت في أغلب صفحاتها تناول الساحل الغربي من أمريكا الحلم والبوابة الذهبية كما فعلت هذه بالساحل الشرقي!
تغرقنا إيدث وارتون بوصفها الذي لا يتخاذل حتى عن صغائر الأمور في تفاصيل الحياة المترفة للطبقة البرجوازية في نيويورك في سبعينيات القرن التاسع عشر وأثناء الحقبة المسماة بالعصر المذهّب أو قِلْددْ إيج. Gilded age بين و
هذه الحقبة التي ترتفع سريعاً فيها أغلب العوائل النبيلة على طبق من بذخ تبرع وارتون في رسمه لنا كدقة الرسام الفرنسي
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 Carol ♔ Typo Queen! ♔
“The real loneliness is living among all these kind people who only ask one to pretend!”

This is what is at the heart of this beautifully written novel about two people trapped by the conventions of their world. Both are aware of the futility and Archer in particular lacks the courage to completely leave the world he knows.

May is an interesting character, isn't she? Sweet and complacent at first she certainly reveals more depth when she is fighting for her happiness.

(view spoiler)
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Edith Newbold Jones was born into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the a ...more
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“Each time you happen to me all over again.” 473 likes
“The real loneliness is living among all these kind people who only ask one to pretend!” 383 likes
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