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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Read With Welty: The Age of Innocence

Tracy Carr
Library Services Director

Our Read with Welty reading challenge encourages you to read 12 books from Welty’s home library at your own pace—over the next weeks, months, or even year! Each week, we’ll explore one of the books here.

Week Eleven: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Part of the appeal of reading is the sheer escape from the reader’s real life, and books where entire worlds are spun and described are the very best for this kind of immersive escapism. While usually books that create their own worlds fit this bill, Edith Wharton’s novels, The Age of Innocence in particular, let us completely become enveloped in the Gilded Age. The rules, the traditions, the rituals—especially those of upper class New York at the turn of the century—seem as fantastical and far away as Narnia or Middle-earth.

I’ve written before in this blog post series that just because Eudora Welty owned a book doesn’t tell us if she liked it or even read it, but I can say with semi-confidence that Welty was probably a big fan of Edith Wharton. She had several Wharton novels, story collections, and biographies in her home library (including a couple Library of America versions; Welty would become the first living writer to have their works published by the Library of America).

While The Age of Innocence is very much about society, class, and expectations, it is also about love and missed opportunities. If you’re in the mood for a period romance that will make you cry a little this holiday season, try it out, or at least try the movie version, which is available free via PlutoTV.

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