Claire Monahan's Reviews > The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
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's review
Aug 29, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, romance
Recommended for: fans of Kate Chopin and Virginia Woolf
Read in September, 2009

I have been attempting to think of how I could possibly start a review for this book, when my own little Goodreads point-of-view is so small and insignificant compared to this Wharton masterpiece. For that's what it truly is - a masterpiece like none other, and that is a word that I reserve for truly the only most deserving, fulfilling pieces of work.

It might be fair to compare Wharton to Austen, but I am not sure that does Wharton justice. In this book in particular, she is able to submerge us into a reality so devastatingly true and tragic, but this only describes one side of the story. Life for these characters does carry on as it does for any Austen work, and all ends are wrapped up, patted on the head, and kissed good night.

But the feelings I have after finishing this book are unlike the Austen texts I have read. Wharton understands that life does not always find its ideal matches along the way - it carries on with both dreariness and joy, but regret will inevitably find and haunt us at some point, whether for a moment or for a lifetime. Most will find a way to carry on and find joy elsewhere, and they will live a good, fulfilling life. But to have that little pang of regret somewhere along the way is something that Wharton finds fascinating, tragic, and part of what makes us real. The Age of Innocence allows us to experience characters like this, and for this reason alone this work deserves its timeless place on the shelves of great literature.

If you loved this, I suggest reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I believe it complements Newland Archer's story, only Chopin carries you down south to the steamy French quarters of Louisiana. There, a female protagonist shares Newland's struggle with what our fate tells us to do and what our heart inevitably desires.

All that said, I would also like to add that I think Newland Archer might be the best male figure I have ever encountered in a text. He is so magnificently developed, and I yearn for more characters like him. Whatever I read next is going to have some massive shoes to fill, and I'm afraid it's going to take me a while to find another text - or a character - equally if not more captivating.

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Reading Progress

09/02/2009 page 100

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