The Age of Innocence is one of the great society novels of the twentieth century, published in 1920. Its writer, Edith Wharton lies second only to Henry James in the art of capturing the intricacies of New York social life. New York in the early part of the last century was a place of rigid social structures, infringed at the trespasser's risk. The Age of Innocence's portrayal of the power of the great families of New York is both scathing and inspired. Wharton withdrew from New York social life as she aged and this is reflected in her bitter take on the grasping American socialites. It is well worth reading this novel alongside James' Washington Square, which provides a more psychological, but no less critical, view of the same social milieu.