For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship
They say behind every great man is a woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary, and her mothering, nurturing friend.
When at the age of forty-five, Edith falls passionately in love with a dashing younger journalist, Morton Fullerton, and is at last opened to the world of the sensual, it threatens everything certain in her life but especially her abiding friendship with Anna. As Edith’s marriage crumbles and Anna’s disapproval threatens to shatter their lifelong bond, the women must face the fragility at the heart of all friendships.
Told through the points of view of both women, The Age of Desire takes us on a vivid journey through Wharton’s early Gilded Age world: Paris with its glamorous literary salons and dark secret cafés, the Whartons’ elegant house in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Henry James’s manse in Rye, England.
Edith’s real letters and intimate diary entries are woven throughout the book. The Age of Desire brings to life one of literature’s most beloved writers, whose own story was as complex and nuanced as that of any of the heroines she created.
About Jennie Fields
Jennie Fields received an MA in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is the author of the novels Lily Beach, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and The Middle Ages. An Illinois native, she spent twenty-five years as an advertising creative director in New York and currently lives with her husband in Nashville, Tennessee.
By age 45, Edith has found literary success with the publication of The House of Mirth, but is miserably unhappy in a sexless, lifeless marriage. Teddy Wharton is a simple man, totally unsuited to Edith, although 60-year-old Anna has always admired and been secretly a little in love with him herself. During their annual winter in Paris in 1908, Edith meets and falls headlong in love with Morton Fullerton, a Harvard-educated journalist. More than one literary acquaintance warns Edith that Morton has a licentious reputation—that he has been one of Henry James’ “favorites” should be warning enough—but Edith, elated by her new sense of herself as a desirable woman, pursues Morton as much as he pursues her. Witnessing the growing infatuation, Anna is torn between her devotion to Edith and her loyalty to Teddy, who sinks into a severe depression, a harbinger of the madness to come. Anna’s moral disapproval irritates Edith’s own guilty discomfort, and she sends Anna temporarily away. With Morton, Edith discovers sexual passion (in some excellent erotic writing) but is frustrated by his emotional slipperiness. Meanwhile, Anna has her own, much quieter romantic adventure, although her first commitment remains with Edith. Fields does not simplify their relationship; they call themselves friends, but Edith often treats Anna as a servant, a role Anna accepts with a sanguinity modern women may not appreciate. As in life, fictional Anna never becomes more than a foil to the fictional powerhouse that is Edith. Teddy is a tragic figure, his basic decency eroded by Edith’s understandable inability to appreciate him. Morton remains the mystery, neither his motives nor his charms made quite clear enough. – Kirkus Reviews
‘Age Of Desire’: How Wharton Lost Her ‘Innocence’
NPR Book Review – August 10, 2012 (Excerpt)
Jennie Fields was well into her new novel about Edith Wharton — and her love affair with a young journalist — when she heard that a new cache of Wharton letters had been discovered. They were written to Anna Bahlmann, who was first Wharton’s governess and later her literary secretary. Bahlmann had never been considered a major influence on Wharton, but Fields had decided to make her a central character in her book, The Age of Desire, even before she heard about the letters. She says she felt certain that Wharton and Bahlmann had a strong relationship.
“They had been together for a great part of Edith’s life and I knew they had to have been close,” Fields says. “So I imagined that was true, but when the letters came out and supported it all, it was eerie and thrilling at the same time.”
So Fields got in touch with Irene Goldman-Price, the Wharton scholar who was editing the letters for a new collection called My Dear Governess. The two bonded over their love of Wharton. Goldman-Price says she was fascinated by the fictional world Fields was creating.
“Her imagination makes these people come alive in my mind in ways that they had not before,” she says. [Read the full article...]
Edith Wharton’s Awakening - ‘The Age of Desire,’ by Jennie Fields
The New York Times Book Review – August 31, 2012 (Excerpt)
It is impossible to libel the dead; legal protection of reputation stops at the grave. But is it possible to embarrass the dead?
Modern writers keep trying. If anyone would have been humiliated by having his sexuality, or lack of it, explored in serious literature, it would have been Henry James. Fears of posthumous invasions of his privacy led him to a frenzy of letter burning, but the reams that he missed were enough to inspire such speculation by the critic Leon Edel and the novelist Colm Toibin, among many others.
There is no need to speculate about the personal life of Henry James’s friend Edith Wharton, the subject of Jennie Fields’s novel “The Age of Desire.” Wharton’s wild affair, in middle age, with the American expatiate journalist Morton Fullerton — wild on her part, that is, but routine on his — is well documented in the passionate and pathetic letters she wrote to him. Despite her pleas to return them, as a gentleman was obliged to do when a love affair ended, Fullerton, well known as a serial cad to assorted besotted ladies and gentlemen, kept and eventually sold letters from both Edith Wharton and Henry James. [Read the full article...]
DOODLEBUGS & SPITFIRES Memories and Short Stories by Peter Carroll
“Doodlebugs & Spitfires” is a delightful collection of memories and short stories written by Peter Carroll, the author of “Queen of Misfortune,” in his trademark poetic and profoundly thoughtful style.
Most of his stories, previously published in limited form in local English newspapers and magazines, like “Brave New World”, “The Forties Street Tradesmen”, “Doodlebugs”, or “The Christmas of 43” evolve around his childhood in the Northern part of London during and after World War II. He describes the horrors that came with the V1 flying bombs, nicknamed the “Doodlebugs.” Heroic British pilots in their “Spitfire” airplanes would attempt to divert the flying bombs from the populated areas, sometimes successful, and sometimes not.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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