July 1, 2016

** Friends Book Recommendation of the Month **

Summer is a time for creating memories, while also revisiting past adventures and remembrances. One of the things I most look forward to in summer is sitting outside with my best friend on Adirondack chairs, sipping a glass of Prosecco and watching our children play together. We have done this for several years now, and while the basic tableau remains the same, there are nuances and changes from year to year as our children grown and the bounds of our friendship unfolds in its various permutations.

Like this summer tradition, each time I reread The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, something new and different unfolds, while also remaining consistent. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton was the first book by a female author to win the Pulitzer Prize. The descriptions of the physical world in which Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska inhabit are visually palpable. Her characters' intentions, flaws and struggles are some of the best ever written. Since reading this book in high school, I have identified with, and found wisdom from, all three of its leading characters. Acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates deemed Ellen Olenska his favorite fictional character. Newland and Ellen are flawed characters, trapped within in the bounds of society's expectations and ultimately their own. More than a story of the fading gilded age, The Age of Innocence offers timeless insight into the human heart and our self-inflected expectations. Each time I read the book, or listen to it, I find something new and different.

In Amherst, reading The Age of Innocence should include a visit to The Mount, Edith Wharton's summer home in Lenox. A visit to The Mount allows the reader a greater appreciation for the world in which Wharton's characters inhabit. Not to be missed as well as are the beautiful gardens and rotating outdoor art exhibits.

-- Hallie, member, the Friends of the Jones Library