I read The Age of Innocence because of Gossip Girl. There’s an episode where they do a stage version as part of their senior year requirements, and it’s awesome. Then after I finished Wharton’s book I realized that The Age of Innocence is Gossip Girl but from 100 years ago.
There’s drama, love tangles, gossip, family estrangements, long lost love, and there’s wealth. There are some major differences, sure. For example women aren’t allowed to have goals beyond keeping a nice house and birthing some pretty babies to marry off. (Imagine Blair Waldorf being reduced to this role, good bye Columbia and editor-ly ambition!) But just like in Gossip Girl, it’s the transgressive characters who are the most interesting. (Like when Blair starts to come in to her own sexually, and when Chuck tries to get in touch with his feelings.) In Wharton’s world, it’s Countess Olenska’s independent life, her separation from her rich husband, and her attitude toward society that make her a focal point not only for the reader, but for Archer, who is fascinated by her. The values that shape their society are the very things that she questions, and her questioning, something Archer admires in its originality, is what make The Age of Innocence special.