Customer Reviews for

The Age of Innocence

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

23 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence is a thought provoking literary piece which I enjoyed immensely. It is written in a simple, accessible style, yet deeply portrays human emotions and interactions in late 19th century New York City. This novel represents an account of high society li...
The Age of Innocence is a thought provoking literary piece which I enjoyed immensely. It is written in a simple, accessible style, yet deeply portrays human emotions and interactions in late 19th century New York City. This novel represents an account of high society life of the 1870s. The events of this novel are wrapped around a prevailing lifestyle of jealousy, shame, and excessive pride which colors the main characters. Not unlike many other segments of the society, then and now, the characters of this novel attempt to disguise these feelings through hypocrisy and deception.
In a time where keeping appearances is everything, the protagonist, Newland Archer, is at conflict with himself. He is engaged to May Welland, who represents stability and the traditional high society life. He begins to fall in love, however, with May's cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. After seeing Ellen and her freedom and spontaneity, he begins to question his life and why he feels the need to conform. He realizes how dull his life is and how materialistic and fake the high society aristocrats are. He loves May, but cannot stand the idea of living such a predictable life with no deeper meaning. In the end, he must choose between living the life he is expected to live with May, or being happy with Ellen, yet ruining the family name.

posted by BANCHEE_READS on September 13, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Worthy Classic

So, I have to admit: this was not my favorite classic novel. However, I understand why it is a classic and I do feel it is well worth reading. I have a few issues with some of the characters and I wasn't as moved with the love story as many others were. To me, Newla...
So, I have to admit: this was not my favorite classic novel. However, I understand why it is a classic and I do feel it is well worth reading. I have a few issues with some of the characters and I wasn't as moved with the love story as many others were. To me, Newland did not have to marry May...he knew before he married her that he really wanted Ellen. So, I guess I don't pity him too much and I really don't know what he expected to happen other than the fact that he would never be happy with May. I'm really glad Ellen didn't allow him to cheat on May with her either. At least she showed some class. Overall, I loved seeing what old New York was like--wow, has it ever changed. Also, I loved the themes and dialogue of the novel. Follow your heart and don't live for others.

posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2008

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  • Posted February 26, 2010

    Redefining Love

    The Age of Innocence is a tragic romance novel that redefined for me what it truly means to love. Set against the backdrop of upper-class New York in the 1870s, this novel explores the tragic story of eligible bachelor Newland Archer, who is engaged to the perfect woman - the beautiful and innocent May Welland. However, when her cousin Countess Ellen Olenska comes to New York to escape her abusive husband, Archer is instantly drawn to this independent, vivacious woman, and the story of their forbidden love begins.

    Edith Wharton's writing is rich and brings to full vision the lushness as well as the rigidity of this unique society as based on manners and reputation as money and genealogy. Each character is beautifully developed, from the naïve yet perceptive May, who makes one last play for her husband's devotion, to the rebellious yet oppressed Archer, to the sensual yet tortured Countess. Even the minor characters, props on Wharton's luxurious stage, are perfectly drawn out to emphasize their coldness and hypocrisy, which Archer and Madame Olenska try so poignantly to fight again - and so poignantly fail.

    The book can be more difficult than a modern novel to get through, in keeping with its background - the for example, deep relationship between Archer and Madame Olenska moves slowly, as it would have given the outside pressures they faced - but always keeps the reader turning the page to find out what doomed choice they will finally make (or what doomed choice will be made for them). Edith Wharton reads like a Jane Austen who has finally gotten realistic. Anybody who is looking for a love story with rich characters and a shocking ending that will redefine the sacrifice of love will enjoy The Age of Innocence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2010

    To Love or Hate?

    I have mix feeling about this book. I hate the first half, but liked (not love) the second half. Overall I understand why it is a classic. The novel description of old New York is very good. Though it a tragic romance, I didn't feel any sympathy for the characters. I felt that the whole tragedy could have been easily avoided if someone had simply speak up. To be honest if it wasn't require, I wouldn't have read this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2008

    Captivating

    The character of Lily Bart was so engaging. Oh, her trials and tribulations were ones to which we can all relate today! The descriptions by Wharton of what life was like for the heroine were well-developed. The pain of Ms. Bart as she fought with her desire to be wealthy when she was brought up to be 'ornamental' was astonishing. I am not sure I would call this so much a love story as a story about being in love with the idea of being in love.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2008

    Wonderful, touching

    A haunting love story and historical novel. Beautifully written. - Noga Rosenthal

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2007

    Subtle nuances that thrill the reader.

    I happened to see the movie of the same title a number of years ago and just got around to reading the book. I hang on every word. The subtlety may be lost on someone who is less than insightful. The characters are so well developed that I feel I know what they will do next. The intrigue is in finding out if I am correct. I love the fact that there are beautiful words that you probably haven't heard, and I'm well pleased to be expanding my vocabulary while reading for pleasure. I am sad to come to the end of this fantastic and extremely well written story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2007

    Nothing in comparison!

    Age of Innocence was very... well... innocent, but romantic also. This is a great book for those interested in society during the ninteenth century. You just can't find this sort of writing every day! If you love classics like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, you should like this book as well. It is romantic, and grabs your attention for every page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    Definition of an Innocent Age

    'It shows what Society has come to.' This quote is directly from the eloquent book by Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, and depicts a central theme in the novel which depicts the romantic struggle of Newland Archer, who is torn between being with the love of his life, Ellen Olenska, or his fiancee, May Welland. Wharton's book is about 230 pages long and is written in third person narrative. Throughout the book, you can find extraordinary descriptions, but there is some tough vocabulary. The themes in this book are the pressures of society, personal freedom, and the difference and restrictions of men and women. Wharton's novel contains engrossing characters and an enticing setting, a thrillingly romantic plot, and significant connections.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2007

    Such a pretty melody!

    So far I have read Edith Wharton's books of Summer, Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence. I am in with love her unique writing style. Most time can't put my feelings aside while reading her novels, particularly The Age of Innocence. Edith Wharton has a talent in revealing characters' forbidden love, hidden emotions and internal struggles. I would say she is very good at orchestrating her stories like the melancholy melody. The Age of Innocence is a story of social reality and restrictions. Edith Wharton artfully presented her work as a masterpiece of American classic literature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2006

    Spectacular

    I almost...almost gave up on this books after the first two chapters. Now I'm glad I didn't. It was one of the best books I've read lately. The character development was fantastic, though in places it was hard to keep up with all the minor referenced characters, but the main characters were well done. Someone wrote that the eneding was dissapointing, but I think it was done in the only way it could have been to avoid a dead give-away or complete cheese.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2006

    The First Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Novels!!

    The FIRST novel ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize should not collect dust on an old shelf, pick it up and read about the world where the author grew up. A world where one slipped word or mistook look can send one spinning on a downward social spiral. Newland Archer is about to be married to someone his better in so many ways...young innocent May...but when her cousin Countess Olenska enters the picture Archer's sensibilities are thrown to the winds. A great story of the 'images' of the Victorian Era and the ugly truths they covered up!! If you must, watch the movie first then read the book to find out the meanings behind all the imagery. Wonderfully written by a woman about the world from a man's point of view.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2006

    The Age of Innocence

    Winner of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, The Age of Innocence is a sensational portrait of desire and infidelity in old New York. With vivid imagery, Edith Wharton portrays a modern society time of ballroom dances, gaslit streets, formal dresses, and scandal. Newland Archer¿s world seems to blend wholly into New York¿s expectations as he prepares to marry the docile and naïve May Welland. Then, unexpectedly, May¿s mysterious cousin Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after a scorned divorce with her husband. Ellen parallels to exactly what society despises: a nonconformist. Without a fair inspection, Ellen is rationally judged simply due to her first appearance in a dull black opera dress only to prove the fact that appearance remains a powerful tool in scorning ¿different¿ people. Yet, Ellen catches the irrevocable attention of Newland and soon his infatuation towards her uniqueness forces him to not only go against society expectations, but also his fiancé, May. This forbidden passion and longing is strained by secrets and betrayal as Wharton portrays that people have a fundamental fear of facing the honest truth about the fallibility of human nature therefore, they ignore the faults of others and themselves in order to avoid confronting the truth. The novel clutches the reader into a burgeoning scandal of New York society and roots of an original sin of mankind, desire. Not only does its spellbinding gossip and complex characters make the novel a gripping read, but its representation of society people ¿who dreaded scandal more than disease¿ make it all the more stimulating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2006

    Awesome Book!

    The Age of Innocence written by Edith Wharton is a fictional novel about Newland Archer falling in love with Countess Ellen Olenska even though he is already married to May Welland. Throughout the novel, Wharton incorporates various messages with one of the most important messages being that people should be unique and cherish their own differences instead of trying to fit in with the crowd. I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to teenagers and adults because there are numerous messages hidden within this novel that one might not necessarily think of all the time and gives one a different perspective of people, especially foreigners and one¿s own family members.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2006

    Pointless

    This book was completely and utterly pointless! I've read other novels where social class is a minor theme, but to devote a whole book to social class is total nonsense! Nothing happened in the book... it was about a group of socialite friends who ostracized some people for not being up to par. Archer hops around from one house or opera to the next, and nothing ever happens. If Wharton really wanted to make this book interesting, she would have made it be about divorce, but instead she just drops the issue about 50 pages into the idea. A divorce in that era would have made a great story! I'm unimpressed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2006

    Classic

    I usually don't get into many 'classics', but I thought this one was worth a try. I could hardly put it down. I stayed up late nights reading, and when I wasn't reading, I was thinking about the story. It is an unbelievable exploration of what a man must do when faced with choosing what's best for his family/society and what he really desires. The ending was a bit disappointing even though I know it's ultimately what was important for the story of Newland Archer. An excellent read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2006

    Passionate

    This story is a prime example of what is so great about the classics and what contemporary novelists simply don't get - passion. Not explicit, not described in detail, maybe not even acted on - but genuine passion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2005

    A Nice Classic

    This book was extremely well written, well thought out, and hard to put down. It's about one man's decision to do what is right for society or what is right for his heart. Even though the ending was a bit dissapointing, it is still very moving.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2005

    Amazing!

    it was great reading The Age of Innocence, the book pulls you in and is hard to put down. it is a well written story about the power of love and a young man's struggle to break away from the binds of society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2005

    Fantastic!

    This is a truly well-written story of forbidden love and the influence of society. This remarkable book is about a man who has to make the ultimate decision of his life - to choose the path of love or the path of duty!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2004

    Great book even if you don't love reading!

    I enjoyed this book because it had a compelling, easy to follow plot that kept me interested through most of it. I liked that I didn't feel like I was forcing myself to read it. I must say though, that I was not a fan of the ending

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2004

    Passionate! Deep!

    I have never read anything that made me feel such anguish for the lovers...and by chance I happened upon the film and was transported further into that world. Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer have the kind of chemistry I wish I could have with Day-Lewis. (See him in The Crucible.) He has pure animal magnetism. The film is slow but true...the novel is peerless.

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