Customer Reviews for

The Age of Desire

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Great Book!

Edith Wharton is known for her classic books such as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. She lived in the Gilded Age where money and public status went hand in hand. Jennie Fields takes us back to that day and age through the eyes of Edith Wharton and her long ...
Edith Wharton is known for her classic books such as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. She lived in the Gilded Age where money and public status went hand in hand. Jennie Fields takes us back to that day and age through the eyes of Edith Wharton and her long time companion, Anna Bahlmann. The book covers the middle of Edith's life, her torrid affair with Morton Fullerton, and her lasting friendship with Anna. Though this book is fiction, it's based on actual events in Wharton's life.
I have read a few of Wharton's work, but I knew little about her personal life. This book really opened the door to explore the author behind her books. Wharton became almost like a character in one of her novels. She found, for the first time, the pain and angst of being in love. However the friendship she has with Anna outshines everything else in this book. Anna had been with her almost her entire life. She served as Edith's governess, secretary, and confidant. From loneliness to heartbreak, the two woman relied on each other almost implicitly.
This book is a definite To Read. Jennie Fields did a superb job in writing this book. I felt as though I were transported back in time to witness the life of Edith Wharton and Anna Bahlmann.

posted by Marcie77 on August 25, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Troubling Portrait of Wharton

I've taught college literature for over two decades and certainly have taught, and read, a lot of Wharton. "House of Mirth" and "Age of Innocence" are two of my favorite novels of all time--especially the latter. And while I have done my research into Wharton, I admit ...
I've taught college literature for over two decades and certainly have taught, and read, a lot of Wharton. "House of Mirth" and "Age of Innocence" are two of my favorite novels of all time--especially the latter. And while I have done my research into Wharton, I admit Fields' view, based on recently available letters and other research sources, is not really a flattering portrait of the great author. On a lesser note, the author's excessive stylistic habit of using exclamation points--after every other line on some pages it seems-- drove the writing teacher in me to distraction. It comes across as a terribly unsophisticated technique for such a sophisticated subject and approach.


The cover is one of the most beautiful I have seen, and the impossibly chic circles Wharton lived in are great indulgences, but I found it nearly impossible to find any sympathy for her--despite being well aware of the confines women faced during that period and Wharton's later attempts to make amends (i.e. her humanitarian work during WWI). It is, intellectually, easy to understand Wharton's need to feel passion and sexuality after being trapped in a loveless marriage during a ridiculously confining era, but her actions and treatment of those who love her most--especially the unfathomingly loyal Anna--leaves me so cold I can't empathize, much, at all.

{SOME SPOILERS} Wharton is depicted as a self-centered, selfish, intolerant, emotionally distant (often emotionally cruel) woman who probably helped (by her admission) her mentally fragile husband (perhaps bi-polar?) slide towards madness. Sexually obsessed with the weak, manipulative Morton Fullerton, she throws aside concern for anyone else--including Anna, the secretary and assistant who loved Wharton, like a mother, from the time Wharton was a child. She even leaves her husband's care largely to Anna--because Wharton just can't tolerant him or his illness.

The novel is told through both women's perspectives and while Wharton is shown alternately ignoring and being cruel to Anna and Teddy Wharton for her wildly misguided pursuit of Morton and her own selfish interests (moving the entire household, including dogs, servants, furniture across the ocean multiple times a year on her whims of living wherever she wants, WHEN she wants), Anna remains loyal to a fault. I wanted to scream in frustration as Anna gave up her own possibilities of a better life (returning to family, a possible husband)--to remain with Wharton, who took Anna and her love for granted, when not ignoring or abusing that love.

But Anna is a fascinating character--as infuriating in her loyalty to both Edith and Teddy as Edith is in her pathetic (and it REALLY is) desperation to win Fullerton--an equally pathetic, weak man, incapable of anything other than his hedonistic desires.

If the bulk of this is to be taken as the general essence of these relationships (and with Fields' access to the letters and other sources it certainly implies that although tempered with some artistic license) then Edith Wharton does not appear to have deserved the overwhelming love both Anna, and in his own twisted way, Teddy Wharton, offered her. The whole thing left me sad and rather depressed--however, it also makes me keen to delve deeper into the realities (as much as we can know) of Wharton's tangled relationships. While this view won't stop my love for her work--it certainly adds a new perspective to the woman behind i

posted by irishclaireKG on August 9, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2012

    Troubling Portrait of Wharton

    I've taught college literature for over two decades and certainly have taught, and read, a lot of Wharton. "House of Mirth" and "Age of Innocence" are two of my favorite novels of all time--especially the latter. And while I have done my research into Wharton, I admit Fields' view, based on recently available letters and other research sources, is not really a flattering portrait of the great author. On a lesser note, the author's excessive stylistic habit of using exclamation points--after every other line on some pages it seems-- drove the writing teacher in me to distraction. It comes across as a terribly unsophisticated technique for such a sophisticated subject and approach.


    The cover is one of the most beautiful I have seen, and the impossibly chic circles Wharton lived in are great indulgences, but I found it nearly impossible to find any sympathy for her--despite being well aware of the confines women faced during that period and Wharton's later attempts to make amends (i.e. her humanitarian work during WWI). It is, intellectually, easy to understand Wharton's need to feel passion and sexuality after being trapped in a loveless marriage during a ridiculously confining era, but her actions and treatment of those who love her most--especially the unfathomingly loyal Anna--leaves me so cold I can't empathize, much, at all.

    {SOME SPOILERS} Wharton is depicted as a self-centered, selfish, intolerant, emotionally distant (often emotionally cruel) woman who probably helped (by her admission) her mentally fragile husband (perhaps bi-polar?) slide towards madness. Sexually obsessed with the weak, manipulative Morton Fullerton, she throws aside concern for anyone else--including Anna, the secretary and assistant who loved Wharton, like a mother, from the time Wharton was a child. She even leaves her husband's care largely to Anna--because Wharton just can't tolerant him or his illness.

    The novel is told through both women's perspectives and while Wharton is shown alternately ignoring and being cruel to Anna and Teddy Wharton for her wildly misguided pursuit of Morton and her own selfish interests (moving the entire household, including dogs, servants, furniture across the ocean multiple times a year on her whims of living wherever she wants, WHEN she wants), Anna remains loyal to a fault. I wanted to scream in frustration as Anna gave up her own possibilities of a better life (returning to family, a possible husband)--to remain with Wharton, who took Anna and her love for granted, when not ignoring or abusing that love.

    But Anna is a fascinating character--as infuriating in her loyalty to both Edith and Teddy as Edith is in her pathetic (and it REALLY is) desperation to win Fullerton--an equally pathetic, weak man, incapable of anything other than his hedonistic desires.

    If the bulk of this is to be taken as the general essence of these relationships (and with Fields' access to the letters and other sources it certainly implies that although tempered with some artistic license) then Edith Wharton does not appear to have deserved the overwhelming love both Anna, and in his own twisted way, Teddy Wharton, offered her. The whole thing left me sad and rather depressed--however, it also makes me keen to delve deeper into the realities (as much as we can know) of Wharton's tangled relationships. While this view won't stop my love for her work--it certainly adds a new perspective to the woman behind i

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Let me begin with saying, I love this cover! Well to be honest I

    Let me begin with saying, I love this cover! Well to be honest I have never read any of Edith Wharton's books. I do have one on my nook to be read down the road. I have to add I really enjoy reading books where real life people are fictionalized. I kinda feel like I get to know them a bit. Maybe it's just me being silly! If you do read this, do make sure to head over to the author, Jennie Fields website where she has the pictures of Edith, the men in her life, her book, and her home. This is one of my favorite eras to read about. I once toured the Vanderbilt mansion years ago and I have to say I had no idea people lived so utterly rich! I mean they had a gold ceiling! Anyway let me tell you about the book!




    Edith Wharton is married to Teddy, a man she never really seemed to be in love with--but happened to be very much in love with her. Even at an early age Edith seemed to be very much a woman who wanted to carve out her own space, be her own woman even if she didn't realize that is what she wanted. She seemed to push off men who seemed to challenge her a bit. The story begins when Edith is in her 40s. A time of her life where she knows who she is, she has had her own success and has suddenly realized she wants a more passionate life. A passion Teddy has not given her.




    At a party in Paris, Edith meets Morton Fullerton, a journalist. There is an immediate spark for Edith and she begins to realize he also feels it. They begin a scandalous affair, rousing a passion in Edith she never knew existed. While at the same time, her dear friend (once her governess and now her secretary), Anna is very much against this relationship. All this is going on while her husband as taken ill from a deep Depression. Edith presses forward with her obsession while casting off the ones who love her most.




    The story is mostly Edith, but rotate a bit with Anna's voice. There are also letters and diary entries (which I love to read).




    I found the story sort of hard to get into for awhile. There was this whole back and forth with very little forward movement. It didn't help that I really didn't care much for Edith. She came across so self centered. I really liked Anna and Teddy. For a long time I had harbored some secret hopes (I won't tell you what they were or if I was right!). Once the story picked up a bit, I found myself sad for Edith. She clearly had mother issues and Morton--ugh I really didn't like him the more I got to know him. In many ways the story made me sad.




    I will say Fields is a very talented writer! I could really visualize Edith's world, the people. I felt like I could see the richness of the time. I believe she wrote a very close to truth book about Edith and I think it would be interesting to read some non-fiction pieces to learn even more. I enjoyed the story more as it moved forward, but I think not really liking Edith makes it harder for me to say I enjoyed the book, if that makes any sense. I will say if you enjoy turn of the century stories this is one you should pick up, I would love to hear what you think of it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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