Book Review- Age of Innocence
Age of Innocence reminds me of Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro in many ways . Although this book was written almost a hundred year ago in 1920 , the themes touched in both the books are eerily similar .This is the 1921 Pulitzer winner for Fiction.
The book is set in the Old New York of 1870’s.In times when convention and propriety were of paramount importance in genteel society .Newland Archer is heir to one of the most aristocratic New York families and is pursuing a desirable marriage to May Welland ,who also hails from a similarly prominent Old New York families . However, the entry of Ellen Olenska makes him question the ways of old society . Ellen is May’s exotic cousin, who has returned to New York after an ignominious separation from her husband ,who is a Polish Count .As he grows enamored with Ellen , he begins to question the fastidiousness of Old New York ,with its set ways and archaic norms . The same mores which he held in high regard now strangle him .Newland Archer is seized by a strong urge to break away and make a beeline for freedom . A free life with Ellen Olenska . Despite the fact that it would jeopardise his marriage with May ,and also bring considerable disrepute to his family .
However he lacks the courage to break out and thus the story pans out in a very predictable fashion . In the end ,Newland despite having gratitude for a good life is shown riddled with regrets .
So ,I enjoyed the writing ,definitely stellar . Simple yet so profound .
“Each time you happen to me all over again.”
Character Development is powerful . The different shades of the characters, gentlemanly Newland Archer ,the sheltered May ,the scandalous Beauforts ,the unconventional Countess Olenska are brought in a nuanced and skillful way …One gets the perfect picture of the “Gilded New York society” of yore ,were they come together to make rules ,set trends ,condemn nonconformists & expunge the ones who threaten to disrupt the delicate balance of their civil society .
The plot though is boring & predictable . Although I found certain themes in the book,like the depiction of society & its norms similar to “Gone with the Wind” ,but unlike Gone with the Wind”, there were no women of gumption here to challenge the mores . Ellen did start out as Scarlett O’hara but fizzled out towards the end ..I think that’s why I didn’t find the book to be riveting . Still its definitely worth a read ,if not many !!!
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