Book Review: The Age of Innocence

Title: The Age of Innocence
Author: Edith Wharton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 305 pages

Set during the end of the 19th century, The Age of Innocence examines the societal battles of morality and ideals between “old” New York and “new” New York in the backdrop of a forbidden love affair.

He Said
I’m always drawn to historical fiction that is able to bring back to life days gone by. When done well, they can be intriguing and sometimes even offer insight into modern times. Written in the 1920’s, Wharton effectively preserves the attitudes and times of the 1870’s for readers of many generations to come to be able to visit. The protagonist, Newland Archer, is a young man who possesses modern ideas of romance and freedom and wants to fight against tradition, the dying “old” New York. The grandeur, societal nuances, and “scandals” are intriguing and keeps the plot turning. Ultimately this novel is not so much a love story as it is a tragic reminder that sometimes a lone fight against social norms is futile.

She Said
I approach historical fictions with a desire to learn more about a great era in days of yore. But almost always, I get pulled into the characterizations and ultimately got bothered with either their stagnant development or selfishness. Such was the case with Sister Carrie and The Great Gatsby. Perhaps I just do not like the late 1800s or early 1900s. Wharton’s Age of Innocence indeed painted a society I did not want to live in. It was so hard for me to empathize its characters, who were either spineless or too self-assured. The realistic ending, however, was a great redeeming factor. As a whole, Archer’s love affair was the more acceptable version to Anna Karenina. Archer was a tragic character who achieved wisdom and self-awareness. Karenina was a tragic character who wrote her own demise without ever redeeming herself.

We Say
The Age of Innocence paints for the reader a vivid picture of high-class New York society in the 1870’s which makes it enriching and interesting. However it falters from uneven pacing and excessive, mostly flat, characters that can be hard to keep track of. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read.


Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 313 pages

Essentially a “sick” love story about living while facing a known, pending death.

He Said
Perhaps I’m cold hearted, but I felt none of the emotional pangs I was supposed to for this “beloved” and apparently “moving” novel. The plot was predictable and most dialogues read like bad soap opera. I couldn’t connect as I believed it unrealistic and honestly felt frustrated and tortured in several parts. The last few chapters are more tolerable than the majority of the book as it didn’t have the insufferable “epic” romantic exchanges. I do appreciate the novel’s message that chronically ill people should still “live” and not let death/sickness define them.

She Said
An honest perspective of death and meaningful message that we should be comfortable with the idea of ambiguity. John Green conveyed great stylistic flare. But, how unrealistic sounding are his dialogues?? “Hazel Grace, it is my privilege to have you break my heart.” Who says that?!?!? And a teenage boy, at that! While I appreciate Green’s message, most of the novel reads like a bad romance.

We Say
A work truly meant for teenagers. Unimpressive as a book, we’ll skip the movie version.