I finished Edith Wharton's masterpiece yesterday, and I'm still kind of reeling. I generally try to avoid honorifics like "best novel ever" or "greatest American novel" and so on. But Age of Innocence really is quite incredible, and, at the moment, I consider it the best novel I've ever read.
Maybe that's the glow talking, I don't know. All I can say is that I see a lot of artists take battle-axes to institutions that they don't like, and often those institutions deserve that treatment. Wharton does something much more difficult. She takes a switch-blade to "society," with all its bigoted underpinnings, and carves it up, all the while giving her the employers of society agency, breadth and life. And, as I've said before, the book is deeply romantic in a way that we don't often see romance depicted today.
I don't want to say too much more, except that it's a great book executed by a writer at the top of her game. It's ruined me for fiction for awhile....
...though I do have a copy of Middlemarch sitting on my desk. Don't you love how I've gone all literary feminist on ya'll mofos?