Fair disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Age of Desire from Penguin in exchange for my review. All opinions below are completely my own. Spoiler alert: I loved the book!
My most recent summer read has been The Age of Desire, by Jennie Fields. The book is a fictional account of Edith Wharton's years right after the turn of the century, and the book follows both Edith's close friendship and her affair. It also tracks Edith's life between Paris and New England and the geographical tension place can bring. And, let me tell you, it is steamier and more fascinating than I expected. And, best of all, it is a historical fiction account of real events, which always makes the book seem more tangible.
I am fairly sure The Age of Desire is supposed to be written in Wharton's style, but I'm not sure, as I have only read Ethan Frome. I was drawn to this novel because I enjoyed Ethan Frome in high school, and I have always meant to read more works by Wharton. Perhaps this is the nudge I need to hit the library and enjoy another novel or two before jumping into the new school year.
Like many books I read, I was less interested in the romance part. Far more fascinating was the waxing and waning of Edith's friendship with Anna, her governess and then secretary and life-long companion. The relationship is complicated yet also enduring despite many hardships. According to the author, this was actually a secondary part added to the book to deepen the story. I am so glad she added this part, as the friendship of Anna and Edith made the book rich. Better still is that this relationship is fairly historically accurate. While the exact events may never be known, there are actual letters from Edith to Anna (and to others where Edith mentions Anna) that allude to or parallel the novel.
About that romance part, Wharton had an affair with a journalist named Morton Fullerton. After a marriage sans physical affection, Edith feels that she comes alive in the presence of Fullerton. Theirs starts as a friendship and percolates throughout the novel. In fact, percolating is exactly the word to explain how this romance occurs. I'll leave it to you to find out how. The novel covers this affair in whole, including authentic letters the two exchanged. Despite Wharton's request, Fullerton did not destroy her letters, so they are a published book. In fact, most of the letters in the book are authentic, as Edith's letters to Anna have also been published.
I truly enjoyed reading this book. I just finished it today, mostly because I have been savoring the read and just dipping in a little each day. The book accompanied me to the lake cabin and on camping trips, and it was a welcome diversion without being too bookish. If you're a Wharton fan, you should definitely check out the book. Heck, even if you've never read much or any Wharton, it is worth reading for the intriguing twists and turns Edith's relationships take as the book progresses.
Now, for the best part! I do have one copy of the book to give away. To enter, leave a comment below. I will make my husband randomly pick a comment to receive this book. My apologies, but your address must be a street address in the USA. Comments must be made by August 8th, 2012.
Also, several other ladies gave this book a read. It is impossible for me to cover everything, so check out their reviews to see what they mentioned (like the interesting historical look at mental illness -- also a part of the novel!). Check out their posts for a different angle and another chance to win the novel. Happy reading!
This Confetti Life, and thanks for organizing, Janet!
Definitely RA, my new favorite book blog pal -- we both love Madeline L'Engle and Roald Dahl!
Big Mario Life, who accompanies most posts with gorgeous photographs
Jen from the Block, who tackled the racier side of Edith Wharton