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The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

Pub Date: | Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

The Age of Desire
Jennie Fields

8-2-12
Hardcover/368 pages
ISBN: 978-0670023684

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". . . an important piece of private history . . ."

There are no literary lights so high, their private moments will not topple them from their pedestals.

Edith Wharton brings to mind an age where appearances were everything and the slightest misstep could cause a fatal social fall. Nothing would be forgiven without at least paying the social price—in public.

Jennie Fields lays a portion of Edith Wharton’s life bare and holds Wharton up to scrutiny while offering a delicious glance behind the green baize door into the heart of desire, adultery, and the enduring friendship between Wharton and Anne Bahlmann. Few things last longer than a true friendship and Anne remained close to Wharton through a turbulent time in her life.

At forty-five, Edith falls passionately in love with a younger and very personable journalist. Anne warned Edith about him, but Edith fell all the same, neglecting her ailing husband and treating him badly. Fields does not sensationalize the passionate love affair and highlights the quiet friendship between Anne and Edith that runs like a golden thread through the whole business.

To write so tellingly about a woman who in some ways best symbolized the quiet eye of the storm at the turn of the century is a gift and Jennie Fields has the touch. Some readers will be unhappy, and maybe a little disgusted, at Edith’s blatant adultery and cruelty toward her husband, and the remaining readers will marvel at the artistry and tact in Fields’ writing. In and of itself, The Age of Desire is an important piece of private history written by an historian with the skills and out artistry of a novelist. If The Age of Desire were simply a novel about passion, destruction, and friendship, it would sweep all the highest marks; as a biography that uses personal diaries and letters, it is a tour de force that should not be missed.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell