30 May 2007

The age of innocence - Edith Wharton

Date: May 29, 2007
Recommendation: Perhaps the best romance I have ever read; mind you that is a very short list!

It has crossed my mind, while reading Age of Innocence, that a great novel is nothing more than a good story set in an interesting context. One could even argue that there are many great novels that are little more than poor stories wrapped in beautifully described settings. This, I know realize, is the appeal of Christmas wrapping paper. No matter what your gift is, so long as you wrap it in lovely paper, no one will know the difference.

The age of innocence is, quite frankly, is a love story with very little love, and lots of story; perhaps story is the wrong word as it suggests plot. The plot is fairly pedantic: man is set to marry woman A, man falls in love with woman B, man marries woman A, man tries to forget about woman B but fails, man decides to leave woman A to be with woman B, but along comes C. In this case C = child.

However, the beauty and genius of this novel is in its portrayal of upper class society in late 19th Century New York. Written in 1920, the novel harkens back to an age of innocence, when times simpler and society was strictly defined by parameters of conduct based on one’s place in the social hierarchy. It is, ostensibly, about the old school rich, prior to the dawn of nouveau rich families who will ultimately flaunt conventional rules of “society.”

“…..once more it was borne in on him that marriage was not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, but a voyage on uncharted seas.”