Set in turn-of-the-century New York, Edith Wharton's classic novel The Age of Innocence reveals a society governed by the dictates of taste and form, manners and morals, and intricate social ceremonies. Newland Archer, soon to marry the lovely May Welland, is a man torn between his respect for tradition and family and his attraction to May's strongly independent cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska. Plagued by the desire to live in a world where two people can love each other free from condemnation and judgment by the group, Newland views the artful delicacy of the world he lives in as a comforting security one moment, and at another, as an oppressive fiction masking true human nature. The Age of Innocence is at once a richly drawn portrait of the elegant lifestyles, luxurious brownstones, and fascinating culture of bygone New York society and a compelling look at the conflict between human passions and the social tribe that tries to control them.
Edith Wharton was born in 1862 in New York, and later lived in Rhode Island and France. Her first novel, The Valley of Decision, was published in 1902, and by 1913 she was writing at least one book a year. During the First World War she was awarded the Cross of the Legion d'Honneur and the Order of Leopold. In 1920, The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize; she was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Letters from Yale University and in 1930 she became a member of the American Academy of Arts and letters. She died in 1937.