Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I'm on my "must-read-more-classics" kick and I started listening to this on the CraftLit podcast. As good as the audio was, I did what I normally do, got impatient, pulled the book from my shelves and finished it. Yes, I listened to the book when it has been sitting on my shelves for years. Don't judge me.

A big cup of coffee and the early morning today had me finishing the book. Thankfully, it was too early for the dog and she left me in peace while she slept.

So why did I get impatient and go grab the book? Because this turned out to be a really fantastic book. Yes, classics are classics for a reason BUT some are rather dull and just not my cup of tea. This one, however, had all the drama and horribleness that one might find in a high school with a bunch of teenage girls. And it was set in the late 1800's so really, people haven't changed all that much.

We are learning about "fashionable" New York from Newland Archer's POV in this novel, as he is bred as one of the wealthy and high society young men out to rule New York. Thankfully, he's somewhat not quite the guy you think he is going to be. He's engaged to May Welland and when her cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska, comes to town after leaving her husband, things start getting dicey....fashionably.

Ellen is unusual, having lived abroad, she isn't of the normal New York elite (although her family is) and she has the tendency to want to be with artists, writers and others of a "peculiar sort". Newland, I think in spite of himself, is attracted to her. And thus we begin a tale of lost loves and high society drama.

I did like Newland because he proclaims that woman should have the rights as men, to be free and make their own decisions. Despite being stuck with his upbringing and the rules of society, he does think outside of those norms. Acting on that is a whole other story.

Listening to the elite discuss other elites, discuss Ellen and other strange people, reminded me so much of high school. A lot of the things said irritated me however, Wharton handled the book brilliantly. While she was of high society in her past, she is able to accurately described how the elite lived as well as being able to poke the necessary barbs at them.

The writing may be daunting for some, at first glance, but I urge you to keep going and just enjoy the ride. This is an excellent classic to put under your belt.