New York Novels
No one chronicled Old New York better than Edith Wharton, and the Modern Library has selected four of her best-known novels to represent the time period: THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY, and OLD NEW YORK, a collection of four novellas.
The novels explore the dilemma of women and men held within the rigid bounds of social convention, often revolving around marriage. In The House of Mirth, the novel that brought Edith Wharton to fame, Lily Bart must choose between the superficial values of the nouveaux riches and having a more meaningful life. In The Custom of the Country, the energetic and ambitious Undine Spragg works her way to wealth and power through a succession of marriages. Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence is caught in an agony of indecision: whether he should choose the duty of a socially approved marriage, or the love of a woman frowned upon by "decent" society.
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