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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  • Posted August 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    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 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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 9, 2012

    An exceptional read! The best books are the ones that you can't

    An exceptional read!
    The best books are the ones that you can't put down. Except to maybe toss the book across the room because the actions of one of the characters draws that kind of response. Sometimes there's even a character you'd like to take direct aim at with the book. And yet you're just as drawn to retrieving the book and continuing the story because . . . well, the story is THAT compelling. Such is THE AGE OF DESIRE. Author Jennie Fields offers a slice of writer Edith Wharton's life, seen through the eyes of both Wharton and her secretary, former governess, and devoted friend, Anna Bahlmann. And Fields does it with such deftly woven prose. This is simply a must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    'The Age of Desire' is a work of literary fiction that chronicle

    'The Age of Desire' is a work of literary fiction that chronicles the inner life of American author Edith Wharton, her close friendship with a woman named Anna, and a scandalous love affair that threatens to destroy their bond. Being a current graduate student working on my degree in Literature, I jumped at the chance to read a book that detailed more of the private life of Wharton - one of America's greatest female writers.

    Fields did a impeccable job with her novel. Her writing style flowed effortlessly and I was transported back in time alongside Edith from the very first page. The descriptions of the time and the various settings of the novel were done in such a way that I could simply close my eyes and I could vividly imagine the scene unfolding around me.

    The characters in the book were very realistic and believable. They all had unique personalities and flaws that made them easy to identify with - I felt as if I knew them all personally, like I was taking part in the narrative myself. The author wrote the character of Wharton with such earnestness that even her mistakes and character flaws make the reader love her and sympathize with her. We feel her every emotion with intensity and vigor. All the characters are written with this amount of depth, so the heroine doesn't feel over-developed and the other characters are just as rounded, which I feel make the story all the more enchanting.

    The novel swept me away from the first page and didn't release it's hold until the last word. There aren't many times when a piece of literature makes a lasting impression on a reader, but this is one that I will be thinking and speaking about for a long time to come. Fields did a wonderful job bringing not only the past to life, but making an iconic American figure come alive before our very eyes. It is an enthralling look into history and a beautifully written piece of literary fiction. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of literary and historical fiction.

    Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Needless to say, I found "The Age of Desire" completel

    Needless to say, I found "The Age of Desire" completely captivating. Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors, and I wanted to know more about her, so tripping the fantasy seemed a good way to enjoy her life. Jennie Fields, I found is the perfect author for this voyage into Mrs. Warton's life because she seemed to climb into her persona with ease. I was mesmerized by this beautiful book.

    The novel was written in influence of the style of Mrs. Wharton's Age, I felt. There was a tightness to the writing and a certain flow to it that put me in mind of her writings, as well as that of Henry James. Mrs. Wharton, herself, was never far from being controlled in her emotions, and the novel itself was written in this tone. It created a setting for the story that held it true to the places and times the characters lived and loved.

    There is a tension in the love life of Edith and her journalist love interest that caused me to be in mind of my first loves. That push-pull of great passion with an uncertainty of the other's feelings. And, when the great love develops, there is the ever present desire never to be parted from him no matter what the cost. In Edith's life there was a cost but never one she wasn't willing to pay.

    Running in tandem to her affair with the journalist, Morton Fullerton, is the deep love/friendship connection she has with her secretary, Anna. This other love is beautifully and stealthily handled by Ms Fields, and is deeply moving. Her husband, Teddy, is the other link in the chain featured in the book. His life ran the borders of both these capable and beautiful women.

    I couldn't put this book down. It walked me through the life of Edith Wharton and her ever valuable "secretary" and best friend Anna, who was the help and assistant for her wonderful books. I loved that Ms Fields was so adept at capturing the spirit of the Age and of the primary characters. I felt I knew Mrs. Wharton better and came to understand her in a different way.

    You'll enjoy this novel. It's a serious book in many ways, as is any book that seeks to display the truth about its characters and provide a living, important storyline. Jennie Fields is a fabulous author; capable, interesting and worthy.

    I cannot say more than to highly recommend this sensuous, secretive novel to you!

    5 stars Deborah/The Bookish Dame

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    Fabulous Read!

    This book truly takes you into the mind of one of the past's greatest American writers. I t's an unexpectedly bold account of one woman's struggle to balance her duty as a wife in a loveless, sexless marriage with the newfound sexuality she discovers in an elicit but sometimes beautiful affair.

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  • Posted September 7, 2012

    The Age of Desire is bringing Edith Wharton alive to me! I've a

    The Age of Desire is bringing Edith Wharton alive to me! I've always liked to read Edith Wharton and now she's like a long departed sister. This book takes you into the heart and soul of Mrs. Wharton!

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