Friday, August 10, 2012

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

The scandalous life of author Edith Wharton!

Book Description:

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 caf├ęs, 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.

Edith Wharton

My Review:

The Age of Desire is a biographical fiction novel about Pulitzer Prize winning author, Edith Wharton. The novel delves in the tumultuous and co-dependent relationship between Edith and her life-long best friend and secretary, Anna Bahlmann.

Anna Bahlmann is the fair haired lady seated in a chair on the left

At the start of the novel, Edith is married to Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, a man 12 years her senior, and who suffered from acute depression that steadily became more debilitating as their marriage progressed. Their travels ceased and Edith become more and more disenchanted.

Edith Wharton at her desk

When she meets and falls hopelessly in love with Morton Fullerton, a notoriously promiscuous journalist who had affairs with both men and women, an affair of the heart begins.

Morton Fullerton

Numerous letters are written between them throughout their affair. While Edith is consumed with Morton, almost to the point of abandoning her ailing husband, Anna disapproves and helps care for poor Teddy who loves his wife. Through time, Morton and Edith’s relationship deteriorates. The ever-private Edith asks him to burn the letters between them, but he secretly refuses and publishes them instead.

Edith Wharton's Letters

The Age of Desire opens when Edith is 45 years of age and portrays the famous author with all her faults. It reveals her secrets, her scandalous love affair with Morton, and the tumult of her life despite her success. The illusive relationship with Morton was intriguing, tempestuous, and hopeless, lending a touch of sadness throughout the novel because of his aloof attitude towards her. Anna acts as Edith’s conscience. She disapproves of the love affair with Morton and the neglect of Edith’s husband Teddy. Despite the animosity between the two women, they need each other, their life-long friendship linking them.

Edith Wharton at her home

I enjoy books with an edge, and this book certainly did not disappoint. Realistic, believable, and cut with minor tragedies and unwise decisions, it is a poignant portrayal of Edith’s life, loves, and enduring relationships. Fascinating!  

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