...the first glance to see how many pages there are, the second to see how it ends, the breathless first reading, the slow lingering over each phrase and each word, the taking possession, the absorbing of them one by one, and finally the choosing of the one that will be carried in one's thoughts all day...
-- Edith Wharton
-- Edith Wharton
August 14, 2012
Sigh. I'm finding myself very hard to please sometimes. The Age of Desire, Jennie Fields' retelling of the friendship between Edith Wharton and her governess-later-secretary Anna Bahlmann, and of EW's affair with journalist Morton Fullerton, is the kind of book I always hope to find on the library's new book shelves or on someone's blog, the kind of book I can't wait to read. So it's sad for me that it''s the kind of book I want to just finish.
I felt a little like the Edith Wharton portrayed in the book: cross, never satisfied, sometimes harsh, longing for something different. There were so many very positive reviews online, so maybe I'm missing something. Maybe it's because none of the characters -- self-centered Edith, self-effacing Anna, creepy Fullerton, sad Teddy Wharton, except maybe Henry James -- is very likable or sympathetic. (By some accounts, Edith Wharton wasn't very likable, so it's possible that that part rings true.) At times, the writing didn't appeal to me either. Too many images, details, metaphors, unnecessary descriptions, famous names, allusions. A row of trees at The Mount is "Epic. Childlike.' (huh?) I'm glad I read this book and I did enjoy parts of it. I guess I just wanted this book to be better, because the premise was so wonderful. If you read it, I'll be very interested to know what you think.
I just saw that a new book of EW's letters to Anna Bahlmann is about to come in for me at the library, It will be interesting to read them, to see how these women come across there, and to go back to the biography I was reading to see how this time in her life is described.