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The Age of Innocence

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  145,612 ratings  ·  7,394 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
Paperback, 293 pages
Published August 26th 2004 by Barnes Noble Classics (first published June 20th 1920)
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Robert Hiorns Well there's no explicit fucking in it if that's what you mean.
However at one point a stray curl escapes from Madame Olenska's chignon and lies along…more
Well there's no explicit fucking in it if that's what you mean.
However at one point a stray curl escapes from Madame Olenska's chignon and lies along the nape of her neck which I think is jolly well obscene!!(less)
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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 n
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. S ...more
‘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
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
Adam Dalva
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The most perfect ending in literature - I'll never get over it. ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
(726 From 1001 Books) - 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 1870's, 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 reaso
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 wel ...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
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
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 f
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 suspec ...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 (vie
The first thing that I must admit is that I liked this book much more than I expected to like it. I think I judged this book by its many sort of boring covers and the fact that it sounded like a dry classic in some descriptions I read. I know, “BAD MATTHEW!” As a voracious reader I should not make assumptions and I should go in with an open mind. But, at least with my pre-conceived notions being disproved, I was pleasantly surprised.

While this book has many characters, the story is not complex.
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 b
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 loa

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 Wharton
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
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Written in the wake of WWI, The Age of Innocence sketches a wry portrait of life for the idly rich in Gilded Age New York, a metropolis in a land recently torn asunder by war and uncertain of its national identity. The plot centers on a love triangle between the unself-aware protagonist, Archer; his passive wife-to-be May; and her cousin Ellen, a free-spirited countess newly returned to America from Europe, estranged from her husband, and unlike most of her status-conscious family. Through the r ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although written in the 20th century, The Age of Innocence could well be seen as a pastiche of 19th century literature. We have the naïve, well-meaning young man who tries yet fails to overcome the prejudices of his society and social class; we have the foreign woman, sophisticated and beautiful, with whom the young man duly falls in love; and we have the fiancée, the typical girl-next-door so beloved in America pop culture, getting between our heroes. Intermeshed with this love triangle, are ve ...more
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. Newlan ...more
Amalia Gkavea
“I couldn't have spoken like this yesterday, because when we've been apart, and I'm looking forward to seeing you, every thought is burnt up in a great flame. But then you come; and you're so much more than I remembered, and what I want of you is so much more than an hour or two every now and then, with wastes of thirsty waiting between, that I can sit perfectly still beside you, like this, with that other vision in my mind, just quietly trusting it to come true.” ...more
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
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 yo
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 woma
Damnation; Abnegation

Blue stocking New York in the Gilded Age (1870s). Aristocratic denizens floating through an orbit of intimations, insinuations and niceties, in rigid fidelity to the complicated and exacting demands of elegant Manhattan coteries.

The winner of the 1921 Pulitzer for fiction: an acerbic attack, employing an indirect deftness, on the oppressive social conventions of an exceedingly class-conscious society.

The protagonist Newland Archer, a young lawyer in an esteemed firm and hei
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. ...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
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
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
E. G.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Text

--The Age of Innocence

Explanatory Notes
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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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