The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton, Maureen Howard

Coming into this book, I girded myself for a struggle with complicated to get the satisfaction of tackling a mountain. I didn't. There was no struggle. I breezed through what should have been dull and boring with a feeling of enlightenment and full of interest. It surprised me.

The novel is the story of a never happening love affair. It's subtle, it's slow, it's painful. It lays the society of the time in careful, detailed relief, full of shades and depths, silences and concealments. I enjoyed it, and I'm not a masochist. I actually laughed at many points, from the ironies, from the ridicules, from the casual dry humour. I also felt impotence, and sadness. Raged too, mostly towards Newland but also towards his environment.

Pages and pages passed with me immersed in the turn of the century New York, and I surfaced every once in a while with the certainty of personal wisdom. That may be where the amazing pull of the book is: that it confides without being direct, nudges and winks at you, and makes you feel so clever for getting the message between the lines. A whole story where nothing happens but it does, a whole book where what it's conveyed it's not the literal word read. Deep waters run still, the procession marches within and all that.

It deserves all those stars, and withhold the so-very-good because I left it feeling spiteful. Maybe when time has soothed this open wound.