Sep 07, 2012
In one of those odd pairings that sometimes happen in the world of books and film, there are two books newly out that revisit classic novels by Edith Wharton.
The Innocents, by Francesca Segal, is a smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment; a beautifully executed recasting of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Set in a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London, one young man's pre-wedding panic illuminates the universal conflict between responsibility and passion.
Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel's younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he'd care to admit. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?
Claire McMillan's The Gilded Age transforms Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth into a powerful modern story of one woman's struggle with independence, reputation, and love as she navigates difficult social terrain.
Library Journal says: "McMillan's debut weaves Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth into modern-day Cleveland's preeminent Shaker Heights, where wealthy families have old roots and tightly knit, occasionally toxic, social circles. Ellie Hart comes back to Cleveland fresh from a failed marriage and a stint in rehab. Except for her beauty, she has few resources with which to support herself. Her friend, an unnamed narrator, recommends that she remarry immediately, but as Ellie bounces among wealthy men, she always returns to Selden, the professor she truly loves. But he, ultimately, will not have her, and this leads to Ellie's undoing."
Looking for a good idea to spark conversation at your next book club? Try reading the classic Edith Wharton novel and the modern retelling. A good discussion is sure to ensue!
And in case two Edith Wharton themed novels weren't enough this year, there's also The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields, which provides a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.
From Booklist: "Edith Wharton lived in the glittering world of the moneyed elite she wrote about, although she never experienced her characters' lustful motivations herself until she met American journalist Morton Fullerton. Fields bases her perceptive novel on Wharton's own diaries and letters. While the novel concentrates more on the emotional than the intellectual sphere, it sheds welcome light on the little-known private life of a famous woman and her closest relationships in early-twentieth-century Europe and America."