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- [-] Other Available FormatsOur PriceNew & Used MarketplaceThe Age of Desire (Paperback)
Publisher: Penguin Books$12.45The Age of Desire (Large Print Hardcover)
Publisher: Thorndike Press$30.99The Age of Desire (Audio Compact Disc - Unabridged)
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-06-04
- Reviewer: Staff
In Fields’s delicate and imaginative fourth novel (after Crossing Brooklyn Ferry), Edith Wharton struggles with the passion she feels for Morton Fullerton. Trapped in an unhappy marriage to the increasingly erratic manic-depressive Teddy, Edith is both fascinated and frightened by Morton’s push-pull flirtations, his attentions tapping into parts of her she didn’t know existed, since conjugal relations with Teddy have always been unpleasant. Edith’s former governess Anna, now her friend, confidant, and secretary, is worried about Edith’s susceptibility to Morton’s flattery, and draws closer to Teddy, whom she believes Edith treats unfairly. As Edith gets more involved with Morton, she sends Anna off to explore her own life, a “gift” that means she won’t have to face her friend’s disapproval. The layered dynamics of these characters add texture to scenes ranging in setting from London to Paris to The Mount in Lenox, locations that either compliment or contrast with what unfolds. The book’s only flaw is the choice of present tense, which draws unwanted attention to the time period and pushes readers out just when they should be pulled in. Still, Fields’s love and respect for all her characters and her care in telling their stories shines through. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM. (Aug. 6)
A sensual Edith Wharton
It is tempting, in light of Jennie Fields’ novelization of Edith Wharton’s affair with Morton Fullerton, to start a review that asks the reader to imagine Edith Wharton with no clothes on. For most of her fans this is a daunting task; the woman seemed to have been born wearing layers and layers of velvets, lace, buttons, corsets and ribbons.
Fields, however, has no problem imagining Wharton in the altogether. Still, The Age of Desire is about more than adulterous hijinks. Indeed, the book’s primary relationship isn’t between Wharton and Fullerton, but between Wharton and her now mostly forgotten governess and secretary, Anna Bahlmann. Called “Tonni” by her boss, she’s mousy, self-effacing and infinitely forbearing. She needs to be; the sometimes imperious Wharton switches between treating her like a beloved family member and a house elf. Still, this is rather better than Wharton treats her husband, Teddy, who spends much of the book not only being cuckolded, but suffering from what is now recognized as manic depression.
Fields makes us understand why Wharton would fall in love with a bounder like Fullerton. Wharton married the older Teddy because he was a gentleman of some means and it was the thing to do at the time. Their marriage is arid. Fullerton is beautiful, he’s as indifferent to public opinion as the rest of her friends, and he wants her, a plain woman in her mid-40s. All the while Tonni lurks in the background, watching and disapproving, yet ever steadfast.
Inspired by Wharton’s letters, The Age of Desire is by turns sensuous—Fields’ descriptions of Wharton’s homes and apartments are far more mouth-watering than her depictions of Edwardian rumpy-pumpy—and sweetly melancholy. It’s also a moving examination of a friendship between two women.