©2008 BBC Audiobooks Ltd; (P)2008 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
This book conveys you to a lost world. On the surface there is much that was attractive about the life of the wealthy upper class in New York in the 1870s. In this book, however, you are also presented with the constraints and restrictions of what, all too often, was a meaningless life.
Edith Wharton presents you with the agonising choices facing the young, in particular, when passion and the wish for freedom tempts them to flaunt accepted conventions and morality.
The book is beautifully written with many touches of humour.
This incredibly moving, yet at the same time gentle, tale of thwarted love is beautifully written and very well narrated. The story itself is subtly powerful, and the characters' emotions are conveyed in the writing with a quiet force which I found extremely effective. The language is strikingly poetic, containing beautiful images and metaphors which I found a delight to listen to. The narrator reads with calmness but with real feeling, and I became totally absorbed in it every time I listened. Maybe I'm just susceptible to the charms of this particular book, but I honestly was bowled over by it, and would really recommend anyone to give it a try.
"Narrated to Perfection"
Newland Archer, one of Old New York society's crowned princes (so to speak) is overjoyed about his recent engagement to the perfect May Welland. She too has a perfect pedigree, is a pretty young rose just starting to come into bloom, is innocent and beyond reproach in every way, well trained to be the ideal dutiful wife. But when he gets better acquainted with May's spirited and independent-minded cousin Ellen Olenska, just recently returned from Europe and scandalizing all of New York with her revealing dresses and foreign way of expressing herself and behaving, Newland is at first shocked and then completely taken over with passionate love. So much so that he is in fact determined to drop May and marry the countess Olenska instead. What he forgets to take into account is that his desire to embrace a life of freedom and equality will not be tolerated by his peers. A wonderful look at New York's upper crust in the 1870s, whose lives revolve around being seen at the opera and inviting the right people to dinner parties. Wharton exposes a world she knew firsthand from the distance of the 1920s, and what she shows us is just how regulated life was among the elite in a New York which was cosmopolitan, but prided itself on it's rigid and old fashioned conventions. Because this is Wharton, we know this love story is not likely to end with a Happily Ever After, but along the way she touches on interesting themes and presents us with a fascinating cast of characters who may not be likeable, but don't lack for entertainment value. A story I will definitely revisit in future. This audiobook version was narrated to perfection by David Horovitch and is definitely recommended.
"Reader is mostly excellent save for a few hitches—"
Wharton, of course, is great. The story is complex, the characters are bitingly satirized, and the setting is detailed, fascinating, and a character unto itself.
The reader, David Horowitch, is mostly excellent too. He does a rather funny flat accent for the New Yorkers and reads quite lyrically. He differentiates his characters and reads passionately.
Bad news: Countess Olenska sounds like Count Dracula. Wharton describes her having a strange accent, Olenska having lived a long time in Europe, but one gets the impression she spent most of her time in France, not in Transylvania. Besides, marrying a man with an accent doesn't mean you automatically acquire one too
Perhaps to make her sound poetical, Horowitch also murmurs all of her dialogue. Unless she's shouting, you have to crank the volume up whenever Olenska speaks, because he murmurs, whispers, or breathes what she says. I wish whoever who mixed this recording had pitched her dialogue higher. Unless you're in a quiet room the entire time you listen to this, you're definitely going to miss what she says at least a dozen times.
But maybe I'm picky. It's still a terrific recording, and Horowitch was by far the best reader I could find with the Audible samples.
"V good literary-satirical portrait of high society"
Classic Wharton: portrays the high society of 19th c. New York--basically a bunch of idle privileged snobs some of whom are at least intelligent enough to realize that their lives are empty. Lots of subtle description and reflection. The satire is more subdued than in The House of Mirth. Excellent narration.
"An unfulfilled love-what a story..."
Stylish. Addictive. Fascinating.
None. I've never read such book before, cause I don't like romances. I find them boring. This one is unique. Apparently calm, but underneath passionate and full of emotions.
Without the doubt - Countess Olenska - an extraordinary woman.
When I realized those two should be together so badly, and the only thing which make them parted is...the age of innocence.
Beautifully filmed by Martin Scorsese. I highly recommend.
Wonderful narration and recreation of accents. Great story, a classic.
David sounds as if he has an English accent, which suits this narration. His pacing is perfect. He suggests the accent of the characters without exaggerating too much.
He has revived an old classic, as the movie did.
"Narration could have been better"
The narrator was decent, but he sometimes used a rather nasal voice for some of the characters and a distractingly strange foreign accent for the Countess Olenska. She's supposed to have a trailing, slightly foreign accent--something more subtle than the one the narrator used.
I did not wish to read this book but when I did, I fell in love with it. The writing is brilliant and the book is well structured. Narration in this performance is perfect. Edith Wharton is a consummate story-teller. Read this book and you will realize why she is so highly regarded.
"Loved this classic!"
What a great story. I hung on every word. Enjoyed this audible book.
When narrator tried to sound like a female I would laugh to myself, but how else could he do????
The unexpected thing about this story, for me, was seeing that the "age" being referred to was not only about a certain time of life, but also about a point in history where one could look back to the previous generation and witness a huge gap in attitude and perception. It starts with horse-drawn buggies, hand-written notes, etc. and ends with telephones and automobiles. To see this sort of change in one's lifetime must have been really amazing.
There is also a Scorsese film version of this with Daniel Day-Lewis. It's definitely worth watching but it bothered me a little that the two heroines were swapped (the raven-haired temptress in the book is played by Michelle Pheiffer).
"Masterful ending to a tale well-told"
Since I recently read The Great Gatsby for the first time, I found myself comparing the two books and found Age of Innocence easily the winner on all counts. Both deal with the lives and social mores of the idle rich in American society, albeit during slightly different time periods. But Wharton, it seems to me, is much more adept at hinting at the emotions that seethe beneath the practiced, calm surface displayed by the characters. Her characters felt much more fully alive to me, and the situations much more realistic. The cutting sarcasm of the double-entendres made me laugh out loud many times, as she skewered the holier-than-thou attitudes of both the men and women in the tale. And like many of the very best books, this one still resonates today. We may not ostracize divorcees or the artsy crowd as overtly as they did in the 1870’s, but still, we righteously protect institutions like matrimony (c.f. fight over gay marriage) and look down our noses at anyone who is slightly different (is that a nose-ring I see?). The resolution of the book is not what I expected, and the masterful way Wharton brought this tale to an end is what elevated it to 5 stars for me. [N.B. I listened to this as an audiobook read by David Horovitch. His British accent was a bit jarring at first, considering this is an American novel, but he performed the characters with an American accent so after a while I got used to it and was able to submerse myself in the world of the book].
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