Author: Jennie Fields
Published: Penguin Books; May 2013
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Synopsis: They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.
At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.
My Take: I'm going to be honest, I had a real love/hate relationship with this novel. And honestly, when a novel evokes those kind of strong feelings, that usually means its a good book. However, for me, I have to really like and root for a main character to get complete enjoyment from it, and I just could not root for Edith.
The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields is a fictional account of a very real person: Edith Wharton. I know for a fact that I read at least one, if not more, of Edith Wharton's novels in college. It's just that I had to read so many classics in college its hard for me to remember which ones and Wharton was an incredibly prolific writer!
Fields drops us into Wharton's life soon after the very successful publication of The House of Mirth. Wharton is from a very well-to-do family and married early to Teddy Wharton. It unfortunately quickly became evident to both that this was not a love match. Years later though they are still married to each other (as you did back in the day) and very comfortably living lives of companionship but no romance. However, there are cracks.
Edith loves to spend her winters in Paris. Her circle includes other intellectuals of the day and she is often invited to salons and other high-society Parisian events. Her husband, however, prefers to stay at home. Noticing their growing distance from each other, she seeks deep friendships with others. It is at this time she meets Morton Fullerton. Fullerton is well known across Paris as a cad, and everyone warns Edith, but she doesn't care. Theirs soon becomes a passionate affair that consumes each other.
There is another character at play that I must not forget: Anna. Anna was Edith's governess when she was a child, and as an adult is her, well for lack of a better term, personal secretary. They are also incredibly close friends and confidents, having shared a large portion of each others lives in each others company. However, Anna does not approve of Edith's paramour and as a result, how she treats her husband. This produces strife in the friendship.
Now, The Age of Desire, was one of those books that did engross me and vividly painted a portrait of these real-life characters so that they were utterly believable as to how Fields drew them. However, the vast majority of the novel I just wanted to slap Edith. She could not have been more simpering and utterly, ridiculously, moony over Fullerton, who was, for a lack of a better word, a complete jerk to her. I just wanted to shout 'he's just not that into you!'. While it may be one thing to listen to teenagers allow their lives to be completely ruled by their love and spend all of their time overanalyzing his every word, when a successful older woman does it, it is highly annoying and pathetic.
However, I am but one person who may think this so I highly encourage you to visit the entire Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour.
Cover Lust: I do love this cover! It sets the time period perfectly and it shows a barefooted seductress coming down the stairs!