13 August 2013

Review: The Age of Desire, A Novel of Edith Wharton by Jennie Fields

The Age of Desire, A Novel of Edith Wharton by Jennie Fields book cover
About The Age of Desire, by Jennie Fields

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 Review for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
I picked up The Age of Desire having never read a single line by Edith Wharton, and I'm happy to say it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the novel whatsoever. Primarily The Age of Desire is Edith's life story, in combination with sections narrated by her secretary and ex-governess Anna.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author's depiction of salons in France, journeys by motor and talk of seasons and crossings (to America). Edith's salons and social engagements were full of wit and intellect, and her friendship with Henry James was warming and generous.

I found myself constantly shaking my head in pity though when I read about Edith's relationship with her husband and it truly broke my heart. I was also shocked that Edith was such a successful writer having no knowledge or experience of an orgasm until she was in her mid 40s. Her yearning for love and desire for Morton was understandable to me, as was her husband's reaction and her attempted maintenance of it.

The end came as a shock to me, and I couldn't help but wonder if author Jennie Fields had been writing this as a fictional novel, whether she would have selected a different ending. The Age of Desire was a fabulous read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It has also inspired me to check out some of Edith Wharton's work in the future.

My rating = ****

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