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The Age of Innocence

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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  132,731 ratings  ·  6,212 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
...more
Paperback, 293 pages
Published August 26th 2004 by Barnes Noble Classics (first published June 20th 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

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    Average rating 3.95  · 
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     ·  132,731 ratings  ·  6,212 reviews


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    Emily May
    Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: classics
    “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
    ...more
    Amanda
    Jun 07, 2008 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. ...more
    Lizzy
    ‘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.’
    ...more
    Henry Avila
    Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
    Appearances can be deceiving as this superb classic novel reveals...Newland Archer has the perfect life rich young and good looking, a member in excellent standing of New York's 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 mysterious cousin arrives from Europe, Countess ...more
    Jim Fonseca
    The blurb on GR gives a good summary so I will start with that as the first paragraph:

    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
    ...more
    Steven Godin
    Myself and the Pulitzer prize have previously not always seen eye to eye, but Finally, I have read one worthy of giving top marks to. This golden oldie captures the wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood from a bygone era, where modern ideas are resisted and tradition overcomes compassion. The inhabitants of this hothouse of New York society is built on wealth, life is lavished, easy and comfortably cushioned, but this world may just as ...more
    Jr Bacdayan
    May 04, 2013 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
    ...more
    Robin
    This book, which examines lives stifled by the social conventions of 1870s Manhattan, is a classic masterpiece precisely because it is anything but conventional. Ironically, it had me longing for the lovers to dip their toes in love-story convention (by finding a hotel room, at least once), especially with lines like this one:

    “Each time you happen to me all over again.”


    Oh, Newland Archer! Oh, Ellen Olenska!

    But no, the brilliant Edith Wharton doesn't allow it. She stays the course, showing the
    ...more
    Paul Bryant
    Nov 30, 2007 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 ...more
    Ahmad Sharabiani
    726. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
    The Age of Innocence is a 1920 novel by the American author Edith Wharton. It won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, making Wharton the first woman to win the prize. The story is set in the 1870s, in upper-class, "Gilded-Age" New York City. Newland Archer, gentleman lawyer and heir to one of New York City's best families, is happily anticipating a highly desirable marriage to the sheltered and beautiful May Welland. Yet he finds reason to doubt his
    ...more
    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
    Jul 17, 2012 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
    ...more
    Cheryl
    Nov 22, 2013 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
    ...more
    Catie
    Jul 27, 2011 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
    ...more
    Kalliope




    May be I ought to have read this before the four stories in Old New York: Four Novellas. The novel was written in 1920 and the novellas that pick up, somewhat on the side, some of the same characters (view spoiler) were published four years later. Although "Old New York", with its windows onto the four decades of the 1840s; 1850s; 1860s and 1870s, provides the introductory framework of the city of
    ...more
    Shovelmonkey1
    Sep 11, 2011 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
    Trish
    Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
    The taste of the usual was like cinders in his mouth, and there were moments when he felt as if he were being buried alive under his future.

    Soundtrack for this majestic novel? Old Money by Lana Del Rey. Give this song a listen and tell me you can't feel the power, passion, longing, and heartache echoed in the novel.

    Where have you been? Where did you go?
    Those summer nights seem long ago
    And so is the girl you use to call
    The queen of New York City

    But if you send for me, you know I'll come
    And if
    ...more
    kohey
    Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: edith-wharton
    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
    ...more
    Piyangie
    The Age of Innocence is basically a love triangle. Newland Archer is a wealthy lawyer of upper-class New York society, who is engaged to be married to May, a member of the same society. Ruled by well laid conventions, Newland believes him to be happy and content and eagerly awaits his impending marriage. The meet of Ellen, May's cousin, and his closer association with her that follows make him see the dull and empty life that he is forced to live which is tightly controlled by convention. ...more
    Daniela
    May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    The Age of Innocence while written in the 1920s strikes me more as a pastiche of late 19th century realist literature. We have an upper class young man, Newland Archer, who questions the social mores of his environment but is not courageous enough to oppose them. We have the foreign woman, virtuous and brave with whom the eligible young man falls in love. We have the seemingly innocent girl next door of the 19th century whom Newland dutifully marries. And finally, we have a wide array of ...more
    Jason Koivu
    Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
    Yeah, you could call this The Age of Innocence. On the other hand, a more suitable title might be Anna Karenina Revisited. Here are a few similarities off the top of my head:

    - It's a novel based on societal etiquette.

    - A lovely woman is plagued with an unloving husband and somewhat ostracized from said society due to divorce.

    - A young man rushes to marry his fiancé before troubling thoughts of cheating overtake him.

    - The fiancé is a virtuous, virginal airhead.

    - And finally, the adulterous
    ...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
    ...more
    Luís C.
    This book is presented in two books and 34 chapters. Through its pages are several characters and various scenarios are described. We are in the nineteenth century, where the three important points of world society is the city of Paris, London and New York. The plot unfolds in the U.S., in a society where people seem to be in constant conviviality, even the narrative itself begins with a scene at the Opera House. Throughout history, we realized that the lunches, dinners and celebrations were ...more
    Edward
    Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Introduction
    Suggestions for Further Reading
    A Note on the Text


    --The Age of Innocence

    Explanatory Notes
    Perry
    Catatonic Damnation: Ironic Abnegation

    Blue stocking New York, the Gilded Age of the 1870s. The aristocratic denizens float through an orbit of intimations, insinuations and niceties in rigid fidelity to the complicated and exacting demands of such elegant Manhattan coteries.

    This winner of the 1921 Pulitzer for fiction is an acerbic attack, carried out with indirect deftness, on the oppressive social conventions of an exceedingly class-conscious society.

    The protagonist Newland Archer, who is a
    ...more
    Paul
    Oct 04, 2013 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
    ...more
    Anna Luce
    4 stars

    “I mean: how shall I explain? I—it’s always so. Each time you happen to me all over again.”


    A few months ago I read Edith Wharton's novella, Summer. Although I thought its obliqueness to be rather fascinating, I was frustrated by its relatively short length, and thought that the characters would have benefitted from having some more depth. The Age of Innocence, by comparison, is a much more detailed story, one that focused on a cast of interesting characters, who regardless of their
    ...more
    Mary
    Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 2012, fiction
    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
    ...more
    Ivana Books Are Magic
    Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
    There are many benefits to reading this beautifully written novel. For instance, if anyone ever asks you: "Who was the first women to win the Pulitzer prize?", you will not only know the answer, you will able to elaborate on it. This novel did win the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1921 and boy did it deserve it.

    It is set in a particular historical time and place (1870-ties, New York, the so called Glided Age) and it delivers a brilliant portrait of New York society of that time. The title of
    ...more
    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.
    Phrynne
    Sep 12, 2015 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.
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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 ...more
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