This was a pretty enjoyable read for the most part, although some parts were frustrating, and a few were quite draggy. But those draggy parts were necessary, to set up the society in which this is all going on, to let the reader know what circumstances were like then, and how indiscretion and a bad decision or even the appearance of either, could change everything.
I rather liked all of the main characters in this story. I was afraid that I would find May a bit boring, her being the "innocent" and "naive" one... but I didn't. She was far more interesting than I would have thought, and far from stupid. I could not blame her for some of the more manipulative things that she did in the course of the story. It must be hell to be stuck in a marriage with someone you know loves someone else.
Likewise, I thought that I would dislike Countess Olenska. I mean, what's to like in a woman who falls in love with her cousin's fiance? But I, like Newland, found myself drawn to her, and even pitying her a bit. In the end I came to respect her, which was a surprise to me.
Newland was a surprise to me as well. I initially identified with him and really liked him, particularly for his liberal views on women's rights, but as time went on, I began to dislike him more and more. I found it hard to like a man who would make promises to one woman while all the while pining and trying everything to love another. Especially after given a chance to sow his wild oats. He passed that offer up, and so I thought it was exceedingly selfish of him to continue his whimsical chasing of Olenska. I wanted to strangle him several times... I'll just say that May was damn near a saint to put up with him, even for appearance's sake.
Overall, I really enjoyed the nuance and unexpectedness of this story. Not the most happy of stories... but good nonetheless, and well deserved of its status as a "classic".