‘The Age Of Desire’ by Jennie Fields

'The Age Of Desire' by Jennie Fields

‘The Age of Desire’ is a story about the lives of two women – famed author, Edith Wharton, and Edith’s most influential critic and trusted secretary, Anna Bahlmann. There are a myriad of other themes and experiences explored through the pages of this tale – adultery, femininity, lust, depression, mental illness, love, sex – but at the core of this historical fiction is the exploration of the lifelong friendship between these two women.

'The Age Of Desire' by Jennie FieldsAnna Bahlmann was hired as Edith Wharton’s governess as a child, and throughout Edith’s life amidst marriage and literary success, Anna stood firmly behind her. Anna taught Edith languages, discussed novels, explored art, and then once Edith grew, Anna helped to edit all her books. Anna never married and referred to Edith fondly as Herz – the German word for heart. Although they were closer than sisters and in each others’ lives for over 30 years, there was at time moments of great discomfort and unrest within their relationship.

‘Sometimes friendships go bad … Relationships soften and rot like old fruit. They have their time, and then they shrivel and grow putrid.’

As is not always the case, Edith and Anna were also able to mend the small fissures within their relationship. Trough the course of this tale, it is explained that Edith and Anna mostly disagreed over the budding love affair between Edith and journalist, Morton Fullerton. Anna – having never married or experienced sexual infatuation, and harboring fond feelings for Edith’s husband, Teddy – makes her disagreement apparent. Edith, however, having lived for many years in a loveless and passionless marriage, became hopelessly enamored with Morton – a man who was able to open up her life to passion and a femininity that she did not know existed, least of all within herself. The tumultuous relationship came to an end  after a time, as did Edith Wharton’s marriage.

‘Love must come with a soupcon of torment or even a great deal of torment, or how can it leave a lasting mark?’

In truth, I found myself relating and caring more for the character of Anna as she was – in my eyes – loyal, honest, open, hardworking and caring. Whereas Edith came across as spoiled, selfish, unsympathetic and, at times, rude. As I have thus far only read two of Edith Wharton’s novels (the dismally, dreary ‘Ethan Frome’ and the depressing ‘Summer’) both of which did not leave very warm feelings in my heart; I am attempting to hold my judgment of the woman until I read some of her other works – most especially the novel she was working on through the course of this tale, ‘The Custom of the Country’.

And although I may not come to enjoy Edith Wharton’s literature, I did heartily enjoy this novel. Not only did I enjoy reading about these two vastly different personalities, but I was lucky enough to find a friend in author, Jennie Fields via the wonders of twitter. She proved herself to be a very receptive author, and one who cares deeply for conversing with her readers.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 2 {out of 5} stars | ★★☆☆☆
RATING: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆

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The Age of Desire

DISCLAIMER: I was gifted this novel via a GoodReads FirstReads Giveaway.