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The Age of Desire: A Novel Hardcover – August 2, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (August 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067002368X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023684
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A fascinating insight into the life of my favorite novelist. Fields brings a secret side of Wharton to life, and shows us a woman whose elegant façade concealed a turbulent sensuality.”
—Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress

“With astonishing tenderness and immediacy, The Age of Desire portrays the interwoven lives of Edith Wharton and Anna Bahlmann, her governess, secretary, and close friend.  By focusing on these two women from vastly different backgrounds, Jennie Fields miraculously illuminates an entire era. . . . I gained insight into both Wharton’s monumental work and her personal struggles—and I was filled with regret that I’d finished reading so soon.”
—Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light and A Fierce Radiance

“[Fields’] portrayal of Edith Wharton in love is imaginative and bold and offers a touching view of Wharton. . . . Fields immerses us in Wharton’s household, her social milieu, and her most private self.”
—Irene Goldman-Price, editor of My Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann

“In the vein of Loving Frank or The Paris Wife, Jennie Fields has created a page-turning period piece. Fields portrays a woman whose life was hardly innocence and mirth, but passionate, complex, and more mysterious than one might ever imagine.”
—Mary Morris, author of Nothing to Declare and Revenge

“Somewhere between the repressiveness of Edith Wharton’s early-20th-century Age of Innocence and our own libertine Shades of Grey era lies the absorbingly sensuous world of Jennie Fields’s The Age of Desire . . . along with the overheated romance and the middle-age passion it so accurately describes, The Age of Desire also offers something simpler and quieter: a tribute to the enduring power of female friendship.”
Boston Globe

“Fields supplements the story with fascinating excerpts from Wharton’s actual letters and includes appearances by other authors of the period . . . to re-create the exciting literary landscape of Paris and New York in the first decade of the 20th century. . . . the novel should . . . appeal to those who enjoyed Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife.”
Library Journal

“One doesn’t have to be an Edith Wharton fan to luxuriate in the Wharton-esque plotting and prose Fields so elegantly conjures.”

“Delicate and imaginative . . . Fields’s love and respect for all her characters and her care in telling their stories shines through."
Publishers Weekly

Inspired by Wharton’s letters, The Age of Desire is by turns sensuous . . . and sweetly melancholy.  It’s also a moving examination of a friendship between two women.

“Fields bases her perceptive novel on Wharton’s own diaries and letters. . . . [THE AGE OF DESIRE] sheds welcome light on the little-known private life of a famous woman and her closest relationships in early-twentieth-century Europe and America.”

About the Author

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.

More About the Author

I love books and longed to start writing them when I was six years old. I wrote my first full- length novel in third grade. It was 365 pages! My teacher didn't have time to read it. As I am less wordy now, I hope you will find the time to read my published books.

My new novel, The Age of Desire is based on the life and loves of my favorite novelist: Edith Wharton. Wharton's characters feel as real to me as the people I know. I hope that I've brought Wharton alive on the page, as well as her friend, Anna Bahlmann, her lover, Morton Fullerton, her husband, Teddy Wharton and last but not least, the inimitable Henry James.

I look forward to sharing my books with you. Please visit my website, and let me know what you think.
Also, I am very open to communicating with book groups!

Customer Reviews

I enjoyed the book immensely and recommend it highly.
I loved that Ms Fields was so adept at capturing the spirit of the Age and of the primary characters.
The Bookish Dame
The book is based on the life of Edith Wharton the writer and her love affair in Paris.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By MKSquared on August 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Everyone in 1907 Paris - even the servants - seems to know that Edith Wharton is a famous American author. Graced by the luxuries of her upper-class status, her writing life is rich with travel abroad, friendships with other writers such as Henry James, and the steady support of her childhood governess turned secretary, Anna Bahlman. But in her personal life, Edith is restless in a way that travel and books and smoking and knitting won't quell. In her mid-forties and married "for all the wrong reasons" to the kindly but morose Teddy, she increasingly senses that something is missing from her life. At a salon in Paris, she catches the gaze of that something in the blue, brazen eyes of Morton Fullerton, an American journalist for the Times of London. And now Edith knows: "She wants something, but is she willing to take the risk to find it?"

Anna Bahlman is practically famous by association to Edith, she tells herself. She takes a quiet pleasure in that fact, knowing that when she types Edith's words, when she suggests a little change or comments on a developing plot, she is becoming part of literary history. She is devoted to Edith, but it pains her to see the distance between Edith and Teddy. Any woman should be happy to call Teddy her husband. Anna once told Teddy that herself. Anna and Teddy have had a special bond since that long-ago conversation, but now both Whartons are becoming more difficult since Morton Fullerton entered the picture. Anna would never have imagined it after all these years, but might she have to start over - at sixty?

The Age of Desire, the story of a love affair and sexual awakening informed by the letters of Edith Wharton, is also the story of a friendship defined by the societal roles and conventions of the early 20th century.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Ward TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
'The Age of Desire' is a work of literary fiction that chronicles the inner life of American author Edith Wharton, her close friendship with a woman named Anna, and a scandalous love affair that threatens to destroy their bond. Being a current graduate student working on my degree in Literature, I jumped at the chance to read a book that detailed more of the private life of Wharton - one of America's greatest female writers.

Fields did a impeccable job with her novel. Her writing style flowed effortlessly and I was transported back in time alongside Edith from the very first page. The descriptions of the time and the various settings of the novel were done in such a way that I could simply close my eyes and I could vividly imagine the scene unfolding around me.

The characters in the book were very realistic and believable. They all had unique personalities and flaws that made them easy to identify with - I felt as if I knew them all personally, like I was taking part in the narrative myself. The author wrote the character of Wharton with such earnestness that even her mistakes and character flaws make the reader love her and sympathize with her. We feel her every emotion with intensity and vigor. All the characters are written with this amount of depth, so the heroine doesn't feel over-developed and the other characters are just as rounded, which I feel make the story all the more enchanting.

The novel swept me away from the first page and didn't release it's hold until the last word. There aren't many times when a piece of literature makes a lasting impression on a reader, but this is one that I will be thinking and speaking about for a long time to come.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Great Historicals on August 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Age of Desire is a biographical fiction novel about Pulitzer Prize winning author, Edith Wharton. The novel delves in the tumultuous and co-dependent relationship between Edith and her life-long best friend and secretary, Anna Bahlmann.

At the start of the novel, Edith is married to Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, a man 12 years her senior, and who suffered from acute depression that steadily became more debilitating as their marriage progressed. Their travels ceased and Edith become more and more disenchanted. When she meets and falls hopelessly in love with Morton Fullerton, a notoriously promiscuous journalist who had affairs with both men and women, an affair of the heart begins. Numerous letters are written between them throughout their affair. While Edith is consumed with Morton, almost to the point of abandoning her ailing husband, Anna disapproves and helps care for poor Teddy who loves his wife. Through time, Morton and Edith's relationship deteriorates. The ever-private Edith asks him to burn the letters between them, but he secretly refuses and publishes them instead.

The Age of Desire opens when Edith is 45 years of age and portrays the famous author with all her faults. It reveals her secrets, her scandalous love affair with Morton, and the tumult of her life despite her success. The illusive relationship with Morton was intriguing, tempestuous, and hopeless, lending a touch of sadness throughout the novel because of his aloof attitude towards her. Anna acts as Edith's conscience. She disapproves of the love affair with Morton and the neglect of Edith's husband Teddy. Despite the animosity between the two women, they need each other, their life-long friendship linking them.

I enjoy books with an edge, and this book certainly did not disappoint. Realistic, believable, and cut with minor tragedies and unwise decisions, it is a poignant portrayal of Edith's life, loves, and enduring relationships. Fascinating!
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