Monday, August 26, 2013

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

About the Book:

A sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.
At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.
My thoughts:

I love it when I read a book that inspires me to search for more information...that makes me want to know more about an historical figure or sheds new light on a topic. That is exactly what reading The Age of Desire did for me, and I want to thank author Jennie Fields for sparking a new interest in the writings of Edith Wharton. Ethan Frome is the only Wharton novel that I have read (required college reading), but I am now very interested in reading The House of Mirth and her other novels with a much deeper understanding of the author's feelings and motivations.

I knew going into this book that when I would encounter Edith Wharton in the novel, it would be necessary to put aside modern sensibilities and twenty-first century attitudes to fully embrace her journey and awakening . It is challenging to look back at the repressive, restrictive attitudes and behavior of society in the early 1900's and not feel frustrated.  However, that was the reality of the time period. Edith, trapped in an unhappy and unfulfulling marriage, turned to her writing for solace and her faithful friend and assistant, Anna Bahlmann, for companionship.

I thoroughy enjoyed Edith's evolution and discovery of her passions -- her visits to Parisian salons populated by artists, writers, and intellectuals opened her eyes to new ways of thinking and challenged her conventional attitudes. It also introduced her to a sensual world which she thought was forever closed to her -- her secret relationship with journalist Morton Fullerton would bring her both pleasure and great pain. Fields uses excerpts from Wharton's letters and diaries to enhance the story of an extraordinary and complex writer's exploration of relationships, her sexuality, and self-discovery. A very interesting read!

Title: The Age of Desire
Author: Jennie Fields
Publisher: Penguin Books
352 pages

For more information, reviews, and guest posts, please visit Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. 


Unknown said...

This book didn't work for me at all but I'm glad you enjoyed it!! :)

Audra said...

Great review -- this book sent me scurrying to research, too! I was SO upset while reading it (Edith was horrible! Fullerton was horrible!) but at the end, I realized I had so enjoyed this book.

Joanne said...

Audra -- Yes, it proved to me that I don't have to actually like the main character to enjoy a book. Unlikeable heroines make interesting stories, too!

Lark said...

I am a huge fan of Edith Wharton's novels, and have read her autobiography, but am intrigued to read this book. Thanks for the review! (And I hope you like House of's my favorite Wharton novel.)

Carole Rae said...

Not a #1 for me, but I'm glad you liked it!

Book of Secrets said...

I'm intrigued that the author used Wharton's real letters and diaries in the book. Glad you enjoyed it so much!

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