The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 woman comes equipped with a very Anna Karenina-esque European flair. Their sensibilities are remarkably similar.
Did Edith Wharton steal everything but the title? I don't know, but if you told me she read and admired Tolstoy's book, I wouldn't be surprised. However, let's set the accusations aside.
This is a damn fine novel. It's poignant. It's well-plotted. It's funny. The characters pop to life. New York society of the 1870s is set as well as any Broadway stage.
Deficiencies? Perhaps there's a little too much telling over showing, but I'm not complaining.
Indeed it's difficult to fault Wharton on any point. This is a solid novel.
Beyond the novel, it's difficult to fault Wharton even if she did pilfer the plot. Yes, she came from a very wealthy family and much of her time was spent penning novels from the comfort of her luxuriant bed, dropping completed pages upon the floor to be collected and collated by a servant. But looking deeper you discover all the good she did during the Great War. And when you learn how she put herself in danger by reporting from the front, well, you can't help but admire the woman. She's got true grit, even if it is gilded grit.
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