Among New York City's upper class of the 1870s, before the advent of electric lights, telephones or motor vehicles, there was a small cluster of aristocratic families that ruled New York's social life. To those at the apex of the social world one's occupation or abilities were secondary to heredity and family connections, and one's reputation and outward appearance was of foremost importance. At the center of the highest circles is Newland Archer, a lawyer set to enter into a socially safe marriage with the sheltered and beautiful May Welland -- a decision Archer is forced to re-consider after the appearance of Countess Ellen Olenska, May's exotic and beautiful cousin, recently returned from a lengthy stay in Europe.
beneath the rose- trees; and here and there a daisy grafted on a rose- branch flowered with a luxuriance prophetic of Mr. Luther Burbank's far-off prodigies.
In the centre of this enchanted garden Madame Nilsson, in white cashmere slashed with pale blue satin, a reticule dangling from a blue girdle, and large yellow braids carefully disposed on each side of her muslin chemisette, listened with downcast eyes to M. Capoul's impassioned wooing, and affected a guileless incomprehension of his designs whenever, by word or glance, he persuasively indicated the ground floor window of the neat brick villa projecting obliquely from the right wing.
"The darling!" thought Newland Archer, his glance flitting back to the young girl with the lilies-of-the- valley. "She doesn't even guess what it's all about." And he contemplated her absorbed young face with a thrill of possessorship in which pride in his own masculine initiation was mingled with a tender reverence for her abysmal purity. "We'll read Faust together
I loved this book. It is great to have literary works like this one taking you to an era to which you unfortunately do not belong. As in "Ethan Frome", Mrs. Wharton manages to surprises us in the end.
I've read this book a few times, Wharton is wonderful. However, while it is a great story, well written, with well developed characters, EVERY time I've read it I throw it across the room. I am always frustrated by the choices of the female characters, and the unworthiness of Archer.
Despite that, I always enjoy this book and recommend it to anyone.
Well written novel about a young man trapped by the conventions of NY Society.
I loved this book. The characters are well-written and very real. It gives you insight into the social mores of rich New Yorkers at the end of the 19th. century. Also lets you inside the thoughts and feelings of the main character.