Book Review- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Leah Courtney
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton was my third book read in the Books of the Century Challenge.

Newland Archer is a New Yorker born and bred during a time when societal structures in New York were very defined.  His engagement to May Welland- a proper New York lady who is refined in all the social customs- is disturbed by his relationship with her cousin who is escaping from a bad foreign marriage.  Newland struggles with the confines and rules of society while trying to decide where he fits and what his obligations are.

The Age of Innocence is a portrait of New York society at the turn of the century.  The hypocritical behavior and strict "rules of society" are a major theme of the book.  The title itself is tongue in cheek because we see in the story of Newland Archer's relationships that the "innocence" of the age is often a contrived innocence created by the upper crust members of society failing to acknowledge or discuss anything improper.  Newland's wife, May, seems to typify the naive ladies of the day, but we find out later that she was not truly "innocent" just reticent to ever discuss anything "improper."

I thought the book was very interesting.  I often perceive the turn of the century as a time of innocence- at least compared to the culture we live in today.  but, as books like this remind us, the appearance of innocence is not always the same as the reality.

I am truly enjoying dipping into some of the good books of the last century!  I'm enjoying reading some of those classics I have long heard of but never made the time to read.  I am now in the 1930s list, and I was happy to find several I've read from this set:
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbitt

I haven't picked which book I'm going to read from this list yet, but I am leaning toward reading something by Pearl S. Buck.  Several of her books are listed in the 1930s.

The Age of Innocence (Barnes & Noble Classics) 

Leah Courtney / Author & Editor

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