The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A book of its time, brilliant exposé of the constraints of social order in the late 19th, early 20th Centuries, New York. Hard to imagine the willful entrapment within these constraints and the acceptance members of that society met the dictates.
Wharton’s style is of its time, readable but dense, fully narrative. Like The House of Mirth, her novel of a young woman’s struggle to survive the vicious jealousy and vindictive vengeance of this unforgiving social structure, The Age of Innocence has no happy resolution. Both are about the subjugation of the human spirit (and in the case of Mirth life itself) to the perceived greater good of this society.
Wharton’s novels are important testimony to an era in American society we sometimes forget but which led to a revolution in the Roaring 1920s as the post World War II society in the U.S. and Europe led to the Flower-Power 1960s.
More importantly, Edith Wharton was a supreme observer and chronicler of human nature and nobility. Despite their capitulation to social demands, Wharton’s characters do not succumb to their baser instincts. They are admirable in their tragic superiority.