The Age of Awesomeness
And, in spite of the cosmopolitan views on which he prided himself, he thanked heaven that he was a New Yorker, and about to ally himself with one of his own kind.
This is odd, but the first thing I noticed about Edith Wharton’s New York is how English it was. Actually, it’s not even English — I think it just brought to mind the strict social structure and codes of English society as portrayed by writers like Jane Austen, the Brontes, and Dickens. This is a world where single women simply do not receive men alone, where marriages are set only a few weeks after the couple’s showing a ‘preference’ for each other, and everyone from Europe is just too weird to handle.
The second thing I noticed is that this book is basically the love story that Love in the Time of Cholera is trying to be. Remember how that book was so totally boring that you didn’t even care that Fermina rejected Florentino? (To give you an idea of how boring it was, I had to look up their names because they were so boring I didn’t remember.) The book, apparently, was supposed to be a tragic love story about love and loss and longing and young lovers becoming old lovers, etc etc. Also something about memories and love not dying. I think.
But while Love in the Time of Cholera fails in that respect, The Age of Innocence not only has a great love story, but it has a great atmosphere. LitToC gives a great sense of Spain and the time in which Fermina and Florentino are living, but AoI paints a picture of Old New York’s sites and social intricicies while giving you a delightful story.
Without the atmosphere, AoI would be nothing but a mediocre romance novel — save for the very end. I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t read the book and plan to, but the ending is amazingly real and totally beautiful. I say amazingly real because the ends of so many fictional love stories aren’t, not because I am surprised Edith Wharton pulled it off or to suggest that she didn’t actually (in reference to Corey’s post on G. K. Chesteron being ‘believeable’.)
So if you are looking for a book to up the level of your reading this summer, turn to this one rather than Gabriel Garcia Marquez! Definitely a Book Worth Buying.