The Age of Innocence

The best book I’ve read this year, har har. In serio, an amazing work. For some reason, Wharton’s reputation is made up primarily of the wretched Ethan Frome, but this work is powerful and heart-wrenching stuff. When I finished, I clasped the book to my chest, closed my eyes and dwelled dreamily on the last lines, eventually re-reading them. She opts for the strong ending, avoiding the decent into maudlin, she sends Newland Archer back to his hotel room as an old widower who sat at the foot of the Countess’s windows and avoided the meeting he’d desired/shunned for 30 years. Most books end on a whimper or an afterthought. Wharton ends with a strong line: ” At that, as if it had been the signal he waited for, Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back alone to his hotel.” YES! Makes me want to revisit House of Mirth for a re-read after 10 years.
** Update ** After re-reading House of Mirth, I realized it’d be useful to add some plot points here to aid the memory. Newland Archer is fervently in love with his fiancee, May, until he meets her cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska, who is fleeing a bad marriage in Europe. He becomes enraptured with the Countess, frantically travelling to the country where she is staying with friends, roaming to Boston when she’s there for a secret ferry ride and lunch. They never act on their passion, keeping it hidden (somewhat) from Archer’s now wife. Archer pops out a few kids, and it is with one of his sons that he is in Paris watching the windows of the Countess but not going in (despite May’s being dead).