Tag Archives: Edith Wharton

Summer Reading Round Up

7 Jul

This summer I’m planing on spending a lot of time curled up with a good book. Keeping a book in the bottom of my bag ensures that I have instant entertainment for when  I’m lying out on the beach, cuddled up with Goose at the park, bored on a plane, or unable to concentrate a the gym. While I know that some people prefer kindles or other reading devices, for me nothing can rival a good, old-fashioned book. To me there is something about being able to turn pages, highlight favorite parts, and simply hold it that technology simply can’t rival. Here are a list of must-reads to suit any style reader.

For the avid traveler: The Conde Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys Famous travel writers describe 21 incredible places to visit, telling both of their own adventures and their insider-tips for getting the most out of a trip to each city. Considering that the accounts are coming from some of the world’s most experienced travelers, their rave reviews of often overlooked places like Savannah, Georgia and their adventurous accounts of far-out places like Ethiopia bear greater weight. I loved reading this book because it gave me great new insight into places to visit and brand new places to add to my list of places to visit. I especially can’t wait to visit Tanzania, Provence, Iceland, and Petra now!

For the foodie: Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas- Thomas’s recollection of her two years living in Paris and sampling all of the cities’ best sweets while working for Louis Vuitton is both a tantalizing treat for the taste buds and a touching account of her very relatable struggles with loneliness, infertility, and homesickness. Each chapter pays homage to a particular dessert, describing the best places in enjoy it in Paris and in New York while simultaneously tying the particular sweet back to Thomas’s own life and her present predicament. Every delectable description made my mouth water, especially this glorious homage to a fruit crumble, “the fruit lends tartness, the streusel topping adds sweetness-one without the other is like peanut butter without Fluff, cake without frosting, an Oreo denuded of its white cream center.”

For the hopeless romantic: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton-This is my favorite classic novel of all time. It chronicles the doomed romance of two high-society New Yorkers in the 1870s. Wharton’s beautiful descriptions of the elaborate social engagement and unspoken communications make this novel as emotionally stirring as any Nicholas Sparks novel but with greater elegance and originality.  In a world that has been taken over by 50 Shades of Grey, there is something amazing about being able to read a romance novel in which the lovers never progress beyond a simple kiss. Click here for my full review of the book.

For the nature lover: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- Kingsolver chronicles her family’s year-long adventure in locovorism. She proves  that a local diet is not just better for the economy and environment, but tastier too. Her husband and eldest daughter also contribute to the book with his educational excerpts and her personal essays about adapting these views to life as a teenager. Their story of working together as a family to plant, weed, diversify their cooking, harvest their own animals, and seek out other locally produced items shows that any of us can start making small changes to bring ourselves closer to the food we eat. Packed with tasty seasonal recipes and fascinating data, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the perfect combination of a culinary blog, a cookbook, and a newspaper.

For the person who’s read everything: In One Person by John Irving-This is the only book on the list that I have not yet read, but I can’t wait to dive right into it! Irving’s latest novel challenges readers to confront their own beliefs and reexamine their degree of tolerance as Billy, the protagonist, reflects on his own difficult journey of sexual self-discovery. It is the story of a young bisexual man who falls in love with an older transgender woman. I cannot wait to see how Irving daringly approaches this too-often avoided sector of the population.

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Book Review: The Age of Innocence

7 Jan

Over the past two weeks I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Although the story takes place in 1870s New York, the criticisms of society’s restrictions are still very relevant today.

Newland Archer’s censure of the hypocrisy, unspoken rules, and shallowness of the world around him make this a timeless novel. Despite the difference of 140 years, the aristocratic forcefulness that Newland deals with is not that different from the peer pressure that plagues high school and the work world today. People’s preoccupation with how others with perceive their actions still causes them to deprive themselves of what they want most in the world, whether it’s a massively caloric slice of birthday cake, sharing their feelings with the man or woman of their dreams, or simply an hour of alone time. It is sad how deeply this notion of sacrificed happiness is ingrained in our world.

However, the romantic attitudes of the characters of The Age of Innocence differ tremendously from those of people today. Newland and Ellen, forever separated from each other by their respective marriages, survive their loveless marriages by relaying on the happiness that they receive simply from being in the same room during a dinner party and by spending time alone every few months. Their ability to use the joy of a few brief encounters to carry on with their unfulfilling lives for months or years at a time is a stark contrast to modern society’s need for instant gratification. Today the idea of living in hopes of a brief encounter seems inconceivable because people want their desires to be fulfilled as soon as humanly possible.

The other remarkable, foreign aspect of Newland and Ellen’s romance is that throughout their two years of mutual temptation, their romance remains almost purely emotional with only two kisses to fulfill their physical yearnings. In today’s world where most rap songs revolve around “getting some” and no movie with a PG 13 rating is complete without a steamy love scene, the willpower and resistance that Newland and Ellen maintain out of their respect for May is admirable. The fact that Newland was willing to “marry one woman because another told him to” truly attests to the rare intensity and sanctity of their love.

Although the movie beautifully brings to life the elegance and luxury of high society New York, the film lacks much of the complexity and emotion that Wharton manages to infuse into the lengthier novel. Director Martin Scorsese dazzles viewers with the opulent lifestyle that the characters in The Age of Innocence lead, but the film conversion of Edith Wharton’s magnificent novel lacks the subtler nuances of society’s unspoken judgements.

I highly recommend that anyone in search of a good book picks up a copy of Edith Wharton’s emotionally trying, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Age of Innocence. Consider watching the dazzling movie afterwards as a supplement to more clearly visualize Newland Archer’s world, but don’t rely solely on the movie to grasp the universersal themes in this incredible love story.