The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton

Wharton.AgeInnocenceNineteenth-century story of love and society in upper-class America.

Opening paragraphsOn a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in “Faust” at the Academy of Music in New York.

Though there was already talk of the erection, in remote metropolitan distances “above the Forties,” of a new Opera House which should compete in costliness and splendour with those of the great European capitals, the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the shabby red and gold boxes of the sociable old Academy. Conservatives cherished it for being small and inconvenient, and thus keeping out the “new people” whom New York was beginning to dread and yet be drawn to; and the sentimental clung to it for its historic associations, and the musical for its excellent acoustics, always so problematic a quality in halls built for the hearing of music.

Quotes from critics:  “Eighty-five years after it won the Pulitzer Prize, Edith Wharton’s romantic novel remains as intriguing and captivating as ever.” (Audio File);  “Edith Wharton, while not British herself, is usually placed firmly in the camp of Victorian novelists like Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë, but her books twist the genre in one crucial way: Wharton doesn’t like happy endings.” (The Garfield Book Review); “This is a stunning masterpiece of American literature. Wharton reaches the heights achieved by England’s George Eliot in Middlemarch. Age of Innocence is considered one of the top 100 novels in the English language and I heartily agree.” (Joanne Daneman)

BioEdith Wharton (1862-1937) was born Edith Jones into a family so wealthy it actually inspired the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses.” She had an unhappy marriage and happier affair. Henry James was Wharton’s close friend, and the two of them were often in the company of many of her era’s other literary and public figures. After her divorce in 1913, Wharton moved to France where she was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her humanitarian efforts during the war. She wrote in bed every morning of her life.

Award:  Pulitzer prize