It was quite by accident that both the books I borrowed from the library this time had something in common: Innocence. The first book was The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, and the second was The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.

The books are at once similar and very different.

Both tell the tale of a man’s love and longing for a woman they cannot, or rather, must not have; they speak of respectability, hierarchies, and societies on the clashing cusp of change; they paint the prevalent society with all the love of miniaturist’s brush. Yet, so different they are: one man witholding, the other giving in; one man preserving perfection in his memories, the other seeking material objects to seal his memories in; one living a veneer with self-control, the other abandoning all pretences. Both do not live in the real world, but in a world of their own making. Both do not really possess the woman they adore, they are possessed instead by their own love for the woman.

Both books are very engrossing reads, though I did get a little weary of the wealth of details that Orhan Pamuk plunges into. Society everywhere has its own set of complicated rules by which games are to be played, and that is precisely what makes both these books so utterly fascinating. One recognizes the underlying passions and overt pretences that remain the same across cultures, varying only in the shades that they come in. True innocence is indeed a rare commodity.

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