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Newland Archer, one of Old New York society's crowned princes (so to speak) is overjoyed about his recent engagement to the perfect May Welland. She too has a perfect pedigree, is a pretty young rose just starting to come into bloom, is innocent and beyond reproach in every way, well trained to be the ideal dutiful wife. But when he gets better acquainted with May's spirited and independent-minded cousin Ellen Olenska, just recently returned from Europe and scandalizing all of New York with her revealing dresses and foreign way of expressing herself and behaving, Newland is at first shocked and then completely taken over with passionate love. So much so that he is in fact determined to drop May and marry the countess Olenska instead. What he forgets to take into account is that his desire to embrace a life of freedom and equality will not be tolerated by his peers. A wonderful look at New York's upper crust in the 1870s, whose lives revolve around being seen at the opera and inviting the right people to dinner parties. Wharton exposes a world she knew firsthand from the distance of the 1920s, and what she shows us is just how regulated life was among the elite in a New York which was cosmopolitan, but prided itself on it's rigid and old fashioned conventions. Because this is Wharton, we know this love story is not likely to end with a Happily Ever After, but along the way she touches on interesting themes and presents us with a fascinating cast of characters who may not be likeable, but don't lack for entertainment value. A story I will definitely revisit in future. This audiobook version was narrated to perfection by David Horovitch and is definitely recommended.
46 of 49 people found this review helpful
Wharton, of course, is great. The story is complex, the characters are bitingly satirized, and the setting is detailed, fascinating, and a character unto itself.
The reader, David Horowitch, is mostly excellent too. He does a rather funny flat accent for the New Yorkers and reads quite lyrically. He differentiates his characters and reads passionately.
Bad news: Countess Olenska sounds like Count Dracula. Wharton describes her having a strange accent, Olenska having lived a long time in Europe, but one gets the impression she spent most of her time in France, not in Transylvania. Besides, marrying a man with an accent doesn't mean you automatically acquire one too
Perhaps to make her sound poetical, Horowitch also murmurs all of her dialogue. Unless she's shouting, you have to crank the volume up whenever Olenska speaks, because he murmurs, whispers, or breathes what she says. I wish whoever who mixed this recording had pitched her dialogue higher. Unless you're in a quiet room the entire time you listen to this, you're definitely going to miss what she says at least a dozen times.
But maybe I'm picky. It's still a terrific recording, and Horowitch was by far the best reader I could find with the Audible samples.
36 of 39 people found this review helpful
This book conveys you to a lost world. On the surface there is much that was attractive about the life of the wealthy upper class in New York in the 1870s. In this book, however, you are also presented with the constraints and restrictions of what, all too often, was a meaningless life.
Edith Wharton presents you with the agonising choices facing the young, in particular, when passion and the wish for freedom tempts them to flaunt accepted conventions and morality.
The book is beautifully written with many touches of humour.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
This incredibly moving, yet at the same time gentle, tale of thwarted love is beautifully written and very well narrated. The story itself is subtly powerful, and the characters' emotions are conveyed in the writing with a quiet force which I found extremely effective. The language is strikingly poetic, containing beautiful images and metaphors which I found a delight to listen to. The narrator reads with calmness but with real feeling, and I became totally absorbed in it every time I listened. Maybe I'm just susceptible to the charms of this particular book, but I honestly was bowled over by it, and would really recommend anyone to give it a try.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful