The Age Of Innocence
The novel follows Newland Archer, a young lawyer born and raised in 1870's New York, a member of the upper class, he is newly engaged to society's most beautiful and well-mannered belle, May Welland. May's cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska, returns to New York from Europe, leaving her philandering husband behind, and bringing with her scandalous rumors of her infidelity. As she seeks a divorce against her family's wishes, Newland begins to feel a powerful attraction to her unorthodox behavior and quick intellect.
The story is a careful examination of the Victorian social hierarchy and the psychological effects on the people who would-and wouldn't-play by it's stifling rules. There are many sub-plots in the novel, with which Wharton skillfully dissects her theme from every angle. Her poignant and passionate portrayal of one of the truest love affairs ever to be committed to print and its stunning resolution, leaves you with a gasp.