Synopses & Reviews
Newland Archer and May Welland have just announced their engagement to New York society, and the match seems perfect -- until Archer meets Countess Olenska, a sharp, beautiful woman in the midst of a divorce . . . it's for good reason this book won Edith Wharton Pulitzer Prize.
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
Newland Archer and May Welland are the perfect couple, and all seems set for success, until the arrival of Mays unconventional cousin Ellen Olenska, who returns from Europe without her husband and proceeds to shake up polite New York society. To Newland, she is a breath of fresh air and a free-spirit, but the bond that develops between them threatens his relationship with May.
Edith Wharton's novel reworks the eternal triangle of two women and a man in a strikingly original manner. When about to marry the beautiful and conventional May Welland, Newland Archer falls in love with her very unconventional cousin, the Countess Olenska. The consequent drama, set in New York during the 1870s, reveals terrifying chasms under the polished surface of upper-class society as the increasingly fraught Archer struggles with conflicting obligations and desires. The first woman to do so, Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for this dark comedy of manners which was immediately recognized as one of her greatest achievements.
About the Author
Edith Wharton's novels include The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and The House of Mirth. Lionel Shriver is the author of Post-Birthday World and the Orange-prize winning We Need to Talk About Kevin.