Monday, September 24, 2012

Literary Monday - Edith Wharton's age of desire

My favorite book from last week is called The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields, an interesting historical novel about Edith Wharton that covers a little-known period in her life. What first attracted me was the beautiful photo on the cover, of a woman in a gorgeous dark red dress standing on a Paris balcony with her back to the viewer. 

While living in Paris when she was in her early 40's, Edith had a fling with an American journalist named William Morton Fullerton. Fullerton’s contemporaries referred to him as a boulevardier, meaning that he was a man about town but also a sharp dresser and always entangled in multiple love affairs. They met shortly after Edith’s first big hit, The House of Mirth, was published. Their affair lasted three years in an on-again, off-again manner. It caused a rift between Edith and Anna Bahlmann, her long-time governess turned secretary, who disapproved of her relationship with Fullerton and the disdain Edith had for her husband Teddy.  Their marriage was not a happy one since Teddy was pretty eccentric and not altogether stable, but Anna felt that marriage vows were sacred.

The book covers about four years and is full of wonderful description about their lives and the era they lived in, as well as where they lived in Paris and New York in the first decades of the 20th century. The only thing that irritated me about the story was the characters’ almost constant complaints about how exhausted they are and how much they need to go someplace for a rest, when most of them don't DO anything!  AND THEY HAVE LOADS OF SERVANTS!! Other than the servants, Fullerton and Anna are the only characters who have actual jobs. And then there are Edith’s complaints about having to go to their country estate for three months during the summer, and how boring it is, and not being in society for the whole summer. Please, SEND ME to a lovely country estate for three months!!! I haven’t had three weeks off work since I was 16 years old.

But enough about me.  The Age of Desire is a very enjoyable historical novel, sure to please any Edith Wharton fan or any reader who enjoys lush descriptions of a bygone era.

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