Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
The return of the beautiful Countess Olenska into the rigidly conventional society of New York sends reverberations throughout the upper reaches of society.
Newland Archer, an eligible young man of the establishment is about to announce his engagement to May Welland, a pretty ingénue, when May's cousin, Countess Olenska, is introduced into their circle. The Countess brings with her an aura of European sophistication and a hint of scandal, having left her husband and claimed her independence.
Her sorrowful eyes, her tragic worldliness and her air of unapproachability attract the sensitive Newland and, almost against their will, a passionate bond develops between them. But Archer's life has no place for passion and, with society on the side of May and all she stands for, he finds himself drawn into a bitter conflict between love and duty.
"Edith Wharton is a writer who brings glory on the name of America, and this is her best book. It is one of the best novels of the twentieth century...a permanent addition to literature." The New York Times
"Is it in this world vulgar to ask for more? To entreat a little wildness, a dark place or two in the soul?" Katherine Mansfield
"There is no woman in American literature as fascinating as the doomed Madame Olenska....Traditionally, Henry James has always been placed slightly higher up the slope of Parnassus than Edith Wharton. But now that the prejudice against the female writer is on the wane, they look to be exactly what they are: giants, equals, the tutelary and benign gods of our American literature." Gore Vidal
"Will writers ever recover that peculiar blend of security and alertness which characterizes Mrs. Wharton and her tradition?" E. M. Forster
About the Author
Edith Wharton was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, for The Age of Innocence. Born in 1862, into one of New York's older and richer families, she was educated here and abroad. As keen observer and chronicler of society, she is without peer. She died in France in 1937.