The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
Unabridged, 14 hr. 6 min.
Meredith Mitchell (Narrator)
August 2, 2012
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received audio download from the publisher as part of Solid Gold Reviewers program at Audiobook Jukebox
“For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.
They say behind every great man is a woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary, and her mothering, nurturing friend.
When at the age of forty-five, Edith falls passionately in love with a dashing younger journalist, Morton Fullerton, and is at last opened to the world of the sensual, it threatens everything certain in her life but especially her abiding friendship with Anna. As Edith’s marriage crumbles and Anna’s disapproval threatens to shatter their lifelong bond, the women must face the fragility at the heart of all friendships.
Told through the points of view of both women, The Age of Desire takes us on a vivid journey through Wharton’s early Gilded Age world: Paris with its glamorous literary salons and dark secret cafés, the Whartons’ elegant house in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Henry James’s manse in Rye, England.
Edith’s real letters and intimate diary entries are woven throughout the book. The Age of Desire brings to life one of literature’s most beloved writers, whose own story was as complex and nuanced as that of any of the heroines she created.”
When I selected this book for review of the audio version I did not know anything about Edith Wharton beyond the basic fact that she was an author. It was, in all truth, the gorgeous cover that called out to me, regardless of what the content was about (it falls among my favorite covers this year!). I didn’t even realize that the novel’s title was a play on Wharton’s hit The Age of Innocence. I certainly learned a lot within the pages of Fields’ novel about Wharton and a little about the novels she wrote.
I was conflicted while reading this novel – it was enjoyable to read, but wasn’t one of those books that I just couldn’t put down and had to get back to as soon as possible. I found that when I would put it down it would sometimes be days before I decided to pick it up again – and it wasn’t because I didn’t have time to read. It was a difficult novel to get into – the beginning was slow and I didn’t care passionately about the characters. I often found Edith grating and irritating in the way she treated Anna, who cared so much for her, and the way she mooned over Morton. I found Morton to be a cad that I had no idea how Edith could put up with him. Once you reached the middle of the novel and events started to actually happen, it was interesting and I wanted to find out more of what happened. Information about Wharton’s novels was sprinkled throughout, however I would have liked a little more about them, not just “I wrote a frenzy of pages about such and such today”. The descriptions of the various settings were dazzling – Paris, England, Kansas City, The Mount.
I waited several weeks after finishing this one to write the review of it because I wanted my feelings to even out. I find that I now appreciate the novel more than I did while reading it. I think that part of this is due to my further research on Edith, Morton, and The Mount. I was more able to identify with the characters and places (although I still feel the same about Morton). While it didn’t inspire me to want to run out and pick up one of Wharton’s novels, I appreciate the author more. I do, however, have plans to go visit The Mount, which is only about an hour away, thanks to this novel. I appreciate knowing that her actual letters were used in the novel and after perusing the author’s website I found out how access to those letters came about.
If you have read Wharton’s books or are a fan of hers, I do think that you will certainly enjoy the book. If I were to do it over again, I would probably try to read at least one of her novels first, so that I know what they are talking about when referring to the novels.
The narrator did a wonderful job here with this novel. She perfectly characterized each character in the novel – doing a particularly excellent job with Morton and Edith. I could listen to her all day long.
Author Jennie Fields also has written Lily Beach, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and The Middle Ages. You can visit Jennie’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not listen to this audio excerpt or read this print excerpt?
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