Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: "The Age of Desire" by Jennie Fields

Synopsis:  For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.

At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.

My Thoughts:  In The Age of Desire, Jennie Fields tells the story of Edith Wharton, the woman, as opposed to simply Edith Wharton, the famous writer.  Her portrayal of Edith shows her transform from a someone stuck in an unhappy marriage to a woman finding love and passion for the first time.

I must say that Edith was a very complex character; there were times where I felt very sympathetic toward her and other times where I really did not like her.  Her home life was difficult but at the same time, she wasn't always the nicest person.  I don't think the character understood how she was treating those around her but I definitely felt sorry for characters like Anna and Teddy who had to deal with her self-centered attitude.  I liked that she found love with Morton Fullerton but the fact that she was so naive about him and their relationship was so frustrating for me as a reader.  There were times when I wished I could reach through the book and shake her!

Anna was my favorite character in the story.  I kind of saw her as Edith's conscience; she was the voice telling Edith what the right thing to do was (thought she didn't always listen).  She had this quiet, reassuring manner and no matter how she was feeling, it seemed that she was always willing to take care of those who needed her.  I just thought she was such an admirable character.  

I enjoyed the fact that the author included excerpts from Edith Wharton's diaries and letters.  It was fascinating to read her actual words and thoughts and to know that the events in the story really were based on Edith Wharton's experiences and emotions.  I think they added so much depth to the story.  I didn't know much about Edith Wharton prior to reading this book and had only read one of her books but after reading The Age of Desire, I am definitely going to have to delve further into her works.  3 stars.

About the Author:

Born in the heart of the heart of the country – Chicago -- Jennie Fields decided to become a writer at the age of six and produced her first (365 page!) novel when she was eleven.  She received her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop and published her first short stories while spending a postgraduate year at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.  But needing to feed her family  in the era just post-Mad Men, she became an early female copywriter at an advertising agency, soon rising to creative director and moving to New York.  In her 32-year advertising career, she wrote and produced many well-known and award-winning commercials.  People even now can embarrass her by telling her they grew up dancing to one of her McDonalds’ jingles. 

Still, fiction was her great love.  Writing during her lunch hour and after her daughter’s bedtime she penned her first novel, Lily Beach, which was published by Atheneum in 1993 to much acclaim.  Since then, she’s written three more novels including Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and The Middle Ages. Her latest, The Age of Desire, is a biographical novel based on the life of the author dearest to her heart, Edith Wharton.  An Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review, it describes Wharton’s mid-life love affair with a younger, manipulative man.  Why the affinity to Wharton?  Because she wrote about people attempting to break society’s expectations for them – which is something Fields has been yearning to do all her life.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm quite a fan of Edith Wharton's novellas, I'm glad to see that some of her letters etc gets featured in this book. This sounds like a good read.


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