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 June 6, 2013

    ENJOYED!

    Good book. Makes me want to know more about Edith Wharton and to watch The Age of Innocece again!

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  • Posted November 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Review: "The Age of Desire" by Jennie Fields good hi


    Review:

    "The Age of Desire" by Jennie Fields good historical fiction novel read. This storyline main character was Edith Wharton that really kept you on a roller coaster ride. I didn't know whether to like her or not .... this just depends on what is going on at the time. Ms. Wharton employee... Anna was really some employee and best friend. I would love to have had her friendship!

    I do not want to ruin this novel for you but just saying it was a good novel that will keep you interest from the start till the finish however, sometimes I did become bored but I hung in there and it was worth it in the end.


    "The Age of Desire" was told from the point of view of two women in the early 1900's. One of the view points of Edith Wharton and the other from Anna, Edith's governess when growing up and on to now her personal secretary. You will have to pick up this novel to see the how, what and why of it all. Be ready for a beautiful atmosphere of this novel with 'the French Salons, parties in London, the gossipy people, the bourgeois lifestyle, and yes the sex.'

    If you are interested in a well written read, you have come to the right place for "The Age of Desire" will be recommend as a good read for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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