Unlike Jane Austen, Edith Wharton’s letters were not destroyed – as she might have hoped – but sold by her lover. Jennie Fields uses these primary sources to weave a fictional account of Wharton’s affair with an American in Paris during the early twentieth century in The Age of Desire. But if you are expecting a tale framed in the style of Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, as the title suggests, you may be disappointed.
Fields uses Edith Wharton’s stale marriage and midlife fling with Morton Fullerton, a cad who ruined reputations, to reveal more heartbreak and embarrassment than history or significance. The subplot of Edith Wharton’s relationship with her childhood governess, Anna Bahlmann, who later becomes her editorial assistant, offers some relief. Anna disapproves of the proper society matron struggling to conceal and maintain her wild affair, and serves as Wharton’s conscience.
If you are a fan of Edith Wharton, the excerpts from Wharton’s love letters and novels will remind you of this revered author’s style…but Fields’ formulaic prose has the tenor of a pulpy romance novel.
“If Edith has known joy, it has never felt like this. For this sensation is a mixture of ecstasy and misery she could never have foreseen.”
Related Post: Celebrating Edith Wharton