Friday, August 30, 2013

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

(From Goodreads) 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 behind every great man is a woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary, and her mothering, nurturing friend.

When at the age of forty-five, Edith falls passionately in love with a dashing younger journalist, Morton Fullerton, and is at last opened to the world of the sensual, it threatens everything certain in her life but especially her abiding friendship with Anna. As Edith’s marriage crumbles and Anna’s disapproval threatens to shatter their lifelong bond, the women must face the fragility at the heart of all friendships.

Told through the points of view of both women, The Age of Desire takes us on a vivid journey through Wharton’s early Gilded Age world: Paris with its glamorous literary salons and dark secret cafés, the Whartons’ elegant house in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Henry James’s manse in Rye, England.

Edith’s real letters and intimate diary entries are woven throughout the book. The Age of Desire brings to life one of literature’s most beloved writers, whose own story was as complex and nuanced as that of any of the heroines she created.

My Thoughts:
 Let me begin with saying, I love this cover! Well to be honest I have never read any of Edith Wharton's books. I do have one on my nook to be read down the road. I have to add I really enjoy reading books where real life people are fictionalized. I kinda feel like I get to know them a bit. Maybe it's just me being silly! If you do read this, do make sure to head over to the author, Jennie Fields website where she has the pictures of Edith, the men in her life, her book, and her home. This is one of my favorite eras to read about. I once toured the Vanderbilt mansion years ago and I have to say I had no idea people lived so utterly rich! I mean they had a gold ceiling! Anyway let me tell you about the book!

Edith Wharton is married to Teddy, a man she never really seemed to be in love with--but happened to be very much in love with her. Even at an early age Edith seemed to be very much a woman who wanted to carve out her own space, be her own woman even if she didn't realize that is what she wanted. She seemed to push off men who seemed to challenge her a bit. The story begins when Edith is in her 40s. A time of her life where she knows who she is, she has had her own success and has suddenly realized she wants a more passionate life. A passion Teddy has not given her.

At a party in Paris, Edith meets Morton Fullerton, a journalist. There is an immediate spark for Edith and she begins to realize he also feels it. They begin a scandalous affair, rousing a passion in Edith she never knew existed. While at the same time, her dear friend (once her governess and now her secretary), Anna is very much against this relationship. All this is going on while her husband as taken ill from a deep Depression. Edith presses forward with her obsession while casting off the ones who love her most.

The story is mostly Edith, but rotate a bit with Anna's voice. There are also letters and diary entries (which I love to read).

I found the story sort of hard to get into for awhile. There was this whole back and forth with very little forward movement. It didn't help that I really didn't care much for Edith. She came across so self centered. I really liked Anna and Teddy. For a long time I had harbored some secret hopes (I won't tell you what they were or if I was right!). Once the story picked up a bit, I found myself sad for Edith. She clearly had mother issues and Morton--ugh I really didn't like him the more I got to know him. In many ways the story made me sad.

I will say Fields is a very talented writer! I could really visualize Edith's world, the people. I felt like I could see the richness of the time. I believe she wrote a very close to truth book about Edith and I think it would be interesting to read some non-fiction pieces to learn even more. I enjoyed the story more as it moved forward, but I think not really liking Edith makes it harder for me to say I enjoyed the book, if that makes any sense. I will say if you enjoy turn of the century stories this is one you should pick up, I would love to hear what you think of it.

Buy a copy of The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
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“One doesn’t have to be an Edith Wharton fan to luxuriate in the Wharton-esque plotting and prose Fields so elegantly conjures.” —Kirkus

“Delicate and imaginative . . . Fields’s love and respect for all her characters and her care in telling their stories shines through.” —Publishers Weekly

Beautiful … an imaginative tour-de-force with the best-written naughty bits I have ever read.” —UK Daily Mail

Inspired by Wharton’s letters, The Age of Desire is by turns sensuous . . . and sweetly melancholy. It’s also a moving examination of a friendship between two women. —Bookpage

“A fascinating insight into the life of my favorite novelist. Fields brings a secret side of Wharton to life, and shows us a woman whose elegant façade concealed a turbulent sensuality.” —Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress


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