I actually watched Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of The Age of Innocence before I ever read the book. I found it to be lovely and haunting, which made me want to read the book as soon as possible. It isn’t a heartwarming, everyone-skips-off-into-the-sunset type of book, which is okay every once in a while. Edith Wharton, much like Jane Austen, was a keen observer of societal conventions and their absurdities. She has several wonderful one-liners to which we can all relate. Here are two of my favorites: “Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it” and “In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs.”
The story centers around Newland Archer, who comes from one of the old, wealthy, established families in New York during the latter part of the 19th century. Newland has been brought up to marry a woman from an equally old, wealthy, established family, spend time at his gentleman’s club, less time at the office, and attend the many operas, balls, and tennis parties thrown by his friends. But will he be content doing that? Will he eventually start to question the futility of a life spent in the pursuit of pleasure? Those kinds of questions seem to become increasingly relevant with the arrival of his fiancee’s cousin, a woman seeing refuge from a cruel husband and who is seemingly immune to the demands of New York society. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but now you’ve got to know how it ends, right? You should probably come to the library and check it out! And then be sure to join us at Book Club on Tuesday, April 17th at 6:30 p.m. in the Library Community Room to discuss.