Owing to the generosity of Fleur Fisher, I was able to spend a recent morning off escaping into the world of the New York aristocracy. Although it took a while to draw me in, I ended up enjoying The age of innocence by Edith Wharton, and even while I was struggling to be gripped by it, I could see that it was indeed a worthy winner of the Pulitzer prize.
It's a tale of society, and how the conventions and beliefs of society can oppress those who are too naieve to manipulate it. Unusually for a Virago Modern Classic, the principle character, Newland, is a man, Newland Archer. We meet him awaiting his marriage to May. Into his world comes May's cousin Ellen, on the run from her unhappy marriage. She shuns convention but finds herself often rejected by the society which May seems to represent. Newland feels sorry for her, and ends up being intoxicated by her difference and the potential for life outside an otherwise stifled existence. This book is a story of society, but also a love story, and I was desperate to see how it would be resolved.
I liked this novel for its well written prose, but also for introducing me to a social mileu with which I was not familiar; I have read many books of similar period, describing a similar society, set in England but not in New York.
This book has been unsurprisingly been published many times by a range of different publishers, but there are three Virago editions. Mine is the earliest green edition. I love the flowers on the second cover, although I think that the third, most recent one, best sums up the book for me. 3*