Deeply moving study of the tyrannical and rigid requirements of New York high society in the late 19th century and the effect of those strictures on the lives of three people. Vividly characterized drama of affection thwarted by a man’s sense of honor, family, and societal pressures. A long-time favorite with readers and critics alike.
Somewhere in this book, Wharton observes that clever liars always come up with good stories to back up their fabrications, but that really clever liars don't bother to explain anything at all. This is the kind of insight that makes The Age of Innocence so indispensable. Wharton's story of the upper classes of Old New York, and Newland Archer's impossible love for the disgraced Countess Olenska, is a perfectly wrought book about an era when upper-class culture in this country was still a mixture of American and European extracts, and when "society" had rules as rigid as any in history.