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The 100 Best Novels > Week 45 - The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

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message 1: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments We are in the year 1920 and the 45th of the 100 best Anglo-American novels according to Robert McCrum is The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

From the article:

"Edith Wharton (nee Newbold Jones), who was born into a rich and distinguished New York family in 1862, is perhaps a great city's greatest novelist. From The House of Mirth (1905) to The Custom of the Country (1913) to her masterpiece The Age of Innocence, Wharton's subject was the changing scene of New York City, the foibles of its fashionable elites and the ambitions of the "new people" who, she felt, threatened its traditional culture. Wharton was also close to Henry James whom she described as "perhaps the most intimate friend I ever had, though in many ways we were so different". Together, from 1900 to the end of the Great War, the work of James and Wharton dominates American literature."
(...)
"As with all her New York novels, The Age of Innocence makes an ironic commentary on the cruelties and hypocrisies of Manhattan society in the years before, during and after the Great War. Strangely, when it won the 1921 Pulitzer prize, the judges praised it for revealing "the wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood". Today, while not as merciless in its analysis as The House of Mirth, Wharton's late masterpiece stands as a fierce indictment of a society estranged from culture and in desperate need of a European sensibility. This had been an issue for American writers since Washington Irving, Melville and Hawthorne. Some critics would say it remains unresolved to this day."

read the article here


LauraT (laurata) | 13480 comments Mod
I like this writer


message 3: by Shirley (new) - added it

Shirley | 4177 comments Me too, I enjoyed The House of Mirth, anyway.


Leslie | 15985 comments Shirley wrote: "Me too, I enjoyed The House of Mirth, anyway."

I think that I enjoyed that slightly more than The Age of Innocence -- I got too annoyed with both Newland and May to really like this as much as it deserved.


message 5: by Cathie (new)

Cathie (cathiebp2) | 653 comments I so enjoyed The House of Mirth! Poor Lily Bart!

Her writing reminded me of Jane Austen (although I only read Persuasion) in way in terms of their emotion in their writing which for me is awesome. Does that make sense?

Deciding on the next read from each...


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman I keep thinking I should like her, but then I read more of her and don't. Maybe because the first Wharton I read was Ethan Frome, and I hated it. I might never have recovered from that. Over the years I have dutifully read The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, The Age of Innocence, and The Reef, but never loved any of them.


message 7: by Greg (last edited Jul 29, 2014 10:30PM) (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Shirley wrote: "Me too, I enjoyed The House of Mirth, anyway."

I also loved the House of Mirth! I was so moved by Lily's situation, and I thought the writing was beautiful!

For some reason, I relate strongly to these stories of people trapped in a net of social customs that they can't quite fit. I quite like Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and her ghost stories as well, but House of Mirth is definitely my favorite.


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