The Innocents

The Innocents

by Francesca Segal

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401342777
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 06/05/2012
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 635,454
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Francesca Segal was born in London in 1980. Brought up in the UK and America, she studied at St Hugh's College, Oxford, before becoming a journalist and critic. Her work has appeared in Granta, the Guardian, the Financial Times and both American and British Vogue, amongst others. For three years she wrote the Debut Fiction Column in the Observer and she has been a Features Writer at Tatler. The Innocents is her first novel.

What People are Saying About This

Margaret Leroy

I was captivated by this alluring novel. . . . Segal writes with dazzling psychological precision, conjuring up characters who are complex, engaging, and utterly real. (Margaret Leroy, author of The Soldier's Wife)

Lauren Groff

Francesca Segal's lustrous debut may have begun as a seed shaken from Edith Wharton's masterpiece The Age of Innocence, but only a few pages will show how completely Segal has made The Innocents her own. The setting—a vibrant if enclosed London Jewish community—is beautifully counterbalanced by Segal's wry and compassionate voice. (Lauren Groff, bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia)

Esther Freud

A moving, funny, richly drawn story. . . . Full of real pleasures and unexpected wisdom, this book sweeps you along. (Esther Freud, author of Love Falls and Lucky Break)

Andre Aciman

The Innocents is written with wisdom and deliciously subtle wit, in the tradition of Jane Austen and Nancy Mitford. . . . This is a wonderfully readable novel: elegant, accomplished, and romantic. (André Aciman, author of the award-winning Out of Egypt, Call Me by Your Name, and Alibis)

Stephen McCauley

Writing with warmth, humor, and control, Segal brings to life an impressively large cast of characters, and makes The Innocents a generous, memorable first novel that I found hard to put down. (Stephen McCauley, author of The Object of My Affection and Insignificant Others)

Interviews

Writing the THE INNOCENTS
An Essay from the Author

To recast one of the most beloved American classics is a tall order, and I would never have set out to do something so presumptuous. But once the idea had taken up residence in my mind it became impossible to dislodge. I could see the book so clearly that I could no longer imagine writing anything else.

The catalyst for The Innocents was not an urge simply to re-tell a story — it was the moment I realized that the scaffolding of The Age of Innocence provided the perfect foundation for exploring questions of my own. Some of these questions resonated with the issues that Wharton herself was examining, but others were solely my own preoccupations.

Instead of a facsimile, what began to take shape was a live, contemporary story with a classic novel woven into its foundations. I re-read The Age of Innocence closely and with care. I then set it aside, with enormous (and sometimes straining) willpower, and didn't reopen its pages until my novel was finished. We all feel pressure to live up to the trailblazers and high achievers in the generations before ours — I didn't want my own characters to feel constrained or intimidated by the characters who had inspired them. My central figures — Adam, Rachel and Ellie — needed breathing space to become their own three-dimensional, twenty-first century people. They had different needs and motivations.

My central message also diverges a little from Wharton's, but what I recognized, powerfully, was the social climate of her novel. It had a complex and subtle code whose principles could have placed it anywhere — any small town, any religious community, anywhere that people live their lives closely interwoven. In my novel Adam Newman is newly engaged to Rachel, his girlfriend of 13 years. Their families and lives are entirely intertwined — Adam works for Rachel's father Lawrence, and has been going to the football with him since he was a teenager. And everything is fine; safe and settled, until Rachel's cousin Ellie moves home from New York. Ellie is the antithesis of Rachel — much younger, fiercely independent, promiscuous and vulnerable; and Adam, who is a little self-satisfied at the beginning, is quite disapproving. But he begins to see that she also offers him an escape from all the loving interference and cozy monotony of North West London. Their attraction for one another was the perfect vehicle to explore the choices and dilemmas that face many people as they come of age.

I wanted to explore two central ideas. How do we each distinguish our own path from family pressures and expectations? How can you know the difference between what you want, and what's been wanted for you your whole life? The second was a related, and perhaps equally unanswerable question. What makes a good marriage? Is it passion, or friendship? Is a person alone enough, or does one consider the extended network of others that they offer, the life of which they are part? Romantic lore suggests that one chooses a life partner as an individual, in a vacuum — that one person alone is the source of all happiness, regardless of context or circumstance. At the other end of the spectrum is the argument for absolute pragmatism — arranged marriages, marriages of convenience. But between those two is a vast and complex landscape. One doesn't, in reality, live in a vacuum, and everyone brings a constellation of factors into a marriage - their family, their culture, their interests, their financial circumstances, their ambitions, their personal history. It seems disingenuous to suggest that none of those things contributes in the slightest to one's overall compatibility and happiness. The two women in my novel, Ellie and Rachel, are not simply very different human beings, but they offer Adam entirely different lives. He has, therefore, an impossible choice to make.

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The Innocents 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Full disclosure, I have never been the biggest fan of Edith Wharton, but I was excited to hear about this modern rendetition of "The Age of Innocence." I had heard good things, and was excited to give this a try. However, I found the book to be overhyped and underwhelming. I really had a hard time accepting our "hero," as I found him to be whiny, obnoxious, and indecisive. I never enjoyed Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther," as I always wanted Werther to move on and accept his fate and find a nice girl to settle down with. However, I would gladly read "Werther" everyday, because I appreciate his devotion and decisiveness. Compared to Adam in "The Innocents," Werther is a role model. I wish Adam would have followed Werther's lead and ended things for himself, I would have been put out of my misery much sooner. I have no problems with the anti-hero or the Byronic hero (in fact Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights" is one of my favorite literary characters of all time), but there are few people to root for in this story - even accepting the skewed kleidescope of an anti-romance. Adam, as I mentioned, is a putz...I would have paid for him to meet his Maker. Rachel, poor dippy thing, I never had an affinity for. She probably annoyed me more than Adam, especially because her entire self worth seemed contingent on having a man. Yes, I know that fits with Wharton's time, but as this is a modern re-telling I would have preferred some more feminism. The only characters I seemed to like were the minor characters of Ellie, Ziva, and Lawrence. But no one felt like a fleshed out character. In Fydor Doestoyevsky's masterpiece "The Brothers Karamazov" no character felt extraneous. Father Zosima had life and depth. Grushenka was more than a stereotpical prostitute; she had her own thoughts and her love for Mitya was truer than the so-called chaste Lisa's, and Smerdyokov transcended the caricature of villany to be a beautiful, complex, philosophical character at the heart of the novel. In "The Innocents" everyone is cardboard, knocked over with the slightest breeze, and unable to bear up to analytical interpretation. In the end, not only do the characters resemble stereotypes,there is nothing at their hearts: They are hollow and wooden, souless. I wanted to enjoy this novel, but might have been better taking a pass.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm but sure why this book is part of the book club but I didn't find it very well written. The author spends a lot of space on detailing things that don't seem very important.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I was drawn in by the realistic depiction of the characters and their life style. The writer's development & depth of the thoughts of the main character was very well written. I became sympathetic to the issues he was wrestling with. I especially loved the actions of Ellie-----spot on. Great read! The book even helped me to clarify things in my own life too.
L.A.Carlson-writer More than 1 year ago
Discriminating readers only. Along with the gorgeous cover shot this book is beautifully written; Segal inserts uncommon words which in my opinion only make the reader wiser. I.E. uxorious-page 161. Her writing makes astute readers have only one reaction; grateful astonishment. While her writing lineage is impressive; her father is the late Erich Segal (Love Story) she appears to be a talented writer well ahead of her time. If you're looking for wooden, stale characters you won't find them here. This is a story that simmers slowly and reveals the complexity of the human spirit. The main character is male and Jewish. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year. Exquisite!!! Loved it.
BrittM More than 1 year ago
I agree with some of the others. This book did not live up to the hype at all for me. I felt it to be a story told too many times before. The details were a bit boring at times and I felt like screaming at the male character for being such a flipping idiot. This was forgettable and I'll likely not read another book of hers.
Oregonian1 More than 1 year ago
This book was sensational. I came to care deeply about the main character, Adam, and felt invested in the choices he made. The portrait of the Jewish people's love for family and community was eye-opening and envy-inspiring.
shopgirl_07 More than 1 year ago
The book was just ok for me. I enjoyed parts of it, particularly the descriptions of the tight knit Jewish community, but overall, I found the story to be pretty trite.
UllaBG More than 1 year ago
Loved this book - couldn't put it down. I finished it in two days. She gets it right about the community and all the relationships feel so real. Great ending!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The characters dilemmas really stayed with me. I keep thinking about it and wondering whether Adam did the right thing. Perfect summer reading. I am going to give it to my book club for fall.
thehistorychic on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Received for ReviewOverall Rating 2.5Story Rating 3.0Character Rating 2.0NOTE: I think Francesca Segal has a beautiful writing style. This is the first book I have read by her and I will read her again.What I Loved: I loved learning more about the Jewish culture in England. The story weaved in details that were so rich and amazing that you could imagine what the daily lives of these particular people were like. I was pretty much WOW'd by the amount of rich detail that Francesca was able to include without making you feel hit over the head with it!What I Liked: Jaffa (I probably spelled that wrong the book is not in front of me) was an amazing character. She was wise, caring, and was able to see things that other people missed. She took people at what they were and did not feel the need to judge them on what anyone else thought about them.What wasn't for me: Pretty much every other character in the story was unappealing to me. I thought I would like Ellie (the outsider) but we just never got enough of the story from her POV to make me want to be her champion. I felt sorry and/or pity for Rachel BUT towards the end I felt like she let her life happen to her. Adam was utterly unlikable to me from the beginning and I never warmed up to him. In fiction, I need someone to root for and I just didn't have that in this story.Final thought: This book is very well-liked by others and you should take that into consideration. When characters are a problem for a reader, it often means these same characters will appeal to other readers. That is such a personal thing! Francesca's writing though was beyond beautiful and the story flowed effortlessly. You really should give it a try.
SAMANTHA100 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
In Francesca Segal's novel, The Innocents, Adam Newman is finally engaged to Rachel, his girlfriend of twelve years. They live in Temple Fortune which is a Jewish suburb in North West London. This is a place where everyone knows everyone. Even so, there are surprises and secrets. Adam's father died when Adam was young. His mother did not remarry. Rachel's parents enveloped him into their immediate and extended family. To them he is the perfect man for their beloved daughter. Adam adores Rachel-he is charmed by her kindness and innocence. He is confident that they will learn and grow from new experiences. The entire community welcomes their union.Complications develop. Rachel's beautiful cousin, Ellie, returns to London from New York City. She is totally different from anyone else in the tightly knit community. She has appeared in a film that may or may not be labeled as an art film. Her college career has ended without a degree and there is the matter of her long relationship with a married man who gave her a fair amount of money. Adam is drawn to her for what she represents. She is both independent and a free thinker. He becomes convinced that he loves her and that she, and not Rachel, is the woman he wants to spend his life with. However, it is Rachel that he marries, but this is not where the story ends. A financial scandal surfaces that affects much of the community, Rachel's and Ellie's beloved grandmother suffers a stroke and Adam and Ellie reconnect. And then comes an unexpected surprise.The author brings to life a large cast of characters. She deftly describes them and she tells their story with warmth and humor. She is an accomplished story- teller and she has written honestly about loyalty, temptation and enlightenment. This is a very readable novel and I highly recommend it.I received this book free of charge from Library Thing Early Reviewers and I give this review of my own free will.
jjm2004 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is a modern retelling of Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence" but you don't need to be familiar with that story to enjoy this one. "The Innocents" is set in a tight-knit Jewish community in North London. The characters and their neighbors have been intertwined for generations. The book does a great job of describing this community and its traditions and celebrations. it also shows what happens when outside forces interact with the community, be-it a wild cousin returns from New York or a pension fund scandal. I highly recommend this novel.
kkisser on LibraryThing 7 months ago
A story about Adam getting married to his perfect woman, Rachel and the complications when he is confronted with his own desires for the not-so-perfect cousin Ellie. The book is advertised as a modern version of Edith Wharton¿s ¿The Age of Innocence,¿ which is does a good job recreating the social constraints necessary in Wharton¿s book by setting the story in a very close knit Jewish neighborhood in London with all the customs and cultural restraints attached. The unfortunate part of this comparison is that the book is compared to Edith Wharton and that is a lot for a writer to be compared to. Overall, a compelling story about desires and constraints, though I think this would be a better read for readers unfamiliar with the original work.
dablackwood on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This was an Early Reviewer book and I liked it very much. It was written in a simple and linear style which appeals to me. The story was also appealing - a young London man newly engaged to his girlfriend of 12 years meets his wife's cousin, a troubled but beautiful New York model. Adam is faced with desire for this woman and has to figure out how to extricate himself from the relationship he is in with Rachel and her wonderful and accepting Jewish family. This synopsis makes the story sound like a soap opera but it is way better done than that. The characters are well developed and the story is reminiscent of Age of Innocence which was this author's intent.
rglossne on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I loved this book. The tension between community and individuality, the interplay of generations and how they have been shaped by the Holocaust, the unforgettable characters, the Jewish holidays and traditions forming the structure that holds it together and moves it along.It is an astounding debut novel. This is a book I will recommend to friends.
KatharineClifton on LibraryThing 7 months ago
The fact that this is a more modern translation of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence was a point lost on me, as I have never read the original. So, my lack of knowledge on this front, may color my review. I was coming at this novel cold, without any other reference. Though that does explain the title, which I felt somehow did not properly fit. This is a moving, deeply felt novel about human emotion, duty, passion, and love. It had me wishing at times that I was Jewish, specifically part of the tight-knit Jewish community of Temple Fortune, a suburb of London. There was something appealing in the almost smothering love and concern shared by all members of the community for one another. Yet at times it seemed claustrophobia-inducing. I suppose this is exactly what the main character, Adam, felt. Safety, warmth, and security can be binds to chafe against. The author tells his story with such grace. He is flawed. Deeply so. But no more than the rest of us. His passion is palpable and so is his reality of being stuck in a gilded cage. Something many of us can relate to, even if the circumstances are not exactly the same.I enjoyed this book. It was difficult at times, because of my lack of knowledge about Jewish traditions and Hebrew words, to really get as far into the emotions that the author was attempting to evoke. But overall, the book touched a nerve. Every one of us has experienced love, sacrifice, loss in our lives. And her descriptions of Adam's passionate obsession are spot on. I knew what he was feeling and my heart broke for him.
PMelchior on LibraryThing 7 months ago
There¿s every likelihood that I never would¿ve read this book had I not won it as an early reviewer on LibraryThing. I would¿ve missed a good one.¿The Innocents¿ is the story of Adam Newman, 28, who is newly engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Gilbert. Both are members of a tight-knit Jewish suburb of London, and each has a separate view of the impending nuptials.For Rachel, it is a dream come true, another step in the pre-ordained life journey she will take as a member of the Temple Fortune community. Embraced by her immediate family, surrounded by extended family and friends, Rachel seems content to exist in the insular world in which she was reared.Adam, on the other hand, struggles against the very boundaries that made their lives so sweet and secure. There is a whole world to be explored! Part of him cherishes the warmth and security of all that he has known; part longs for more.Enter Rachel¿s striking, beautiful, but troubled cousin, Ellie. Despite the mess she has made of her life, or even, perhaps, because of it, Adam is drawn to her with a passion he has never known. He struggles with that passion, alternately embracing, then wrestling it silently amid the warmth of familial ties, of the community that has surrounded him since the death of his father many years before.All of this occurs amid an affectionate study of Jewish kinship, culture, values and beliefs, but Segal is deft enough with the material to give her reader an intimate look without seeming ponderous or heavy-handed. Those very values and the community that embraces Rachel and Adam give the book a depth and texture that raises it above a simple cautionary tale.
spacecommuter on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I'm incredibly impressed with this book - there are passages, especially early on, that follow Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence so closely I could feel them coming before they got there - Ellie's shocking debut in public with Rachel's family, Jasper's savage comment cruelly placing her within the context of her mortifying scandal, Adam Newman's musings on how supportive he is of women's independence, as long as it doesn't pose a threat to himself, the vivdly brave and nonconformist grandmother firmly supporting Ellie, a wealthy and reclusive couple giving Ellie shelter, Adam and Ellie's forbidden rendezvous in Paris, and a Madoff scandal shattering the snowglobe of identity and tradition holding them all together so tightly. Check, check, check, check, check, check.But it isn't Francesca Segal's close adherence to the original that I loved, it was her fantastic departures: The setting is a Jewish community in London, two generations removed from the diaspora after World War II (meaning: now). The musical weaving of German, Yiddish and Hebrew words, without patronizing the reader with translations, food described so marvelously this novel could serve as an Ashkenazi newlywed's menu planner, the plot advancing through the Jewish holidays rather than Wharton's tiresome New York social season...and every once in a while, just when you start to wonder why departures from the norm would be so catastrophic for these 21st Century characters, why they can't just get a grip and jump out of the nest - a piercing and genuinely moving reference to the intifada in Israel or the devastation of the Holocaust.Segal's modernizing touches ring true and set some of Wharton's plot twists in a better light - the Madoff scandal hits a more dramatic target, Ellie's scandal is modern, credible, and is the kind of scandal that would evoke the sort of revulsion, embarrassment, protectiveness and fascination that the character's had towards Wharton's Eleanor. What astounded me about Edith Wharton's original was how shockingly modern and immediate it was, even though it's 100 years old: An overly cherished young man afflicted with ingratitude and fickleness (he's the fictional equivalent of every man ever put on The Bachelor's bidding block), a New York society that hasn't changed since, and a ponzi scheme that borders on prophesy. What made me place Francesa Segal's version above Edith Wharton's was the opposite - she gave Adam a real reason for his infatuation with Ellie, and rather than embracing modernity, she showed all the ways these families are playing out the trauma and recovery after the Shoah. The Innocents is a gift to readers who think literature, like history and culture, should live on forever, transformed by the times, and passed from one generation to the next.
etxgardener on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence is one of the saddest books in American literature: the story of a man who sacrifices happiness for duty in a tradition bound society. In Francesca's debut novel she translates this story to the tight-knit Jewish community of northwest London with skill and grace.Adam Newman is engaged to the lovely Rachel Gilbert whom he loves for both her innocent trusting love and also for her family's embrace of him into their lives. He has a nice position in the family law firm and the prospects of a secure and prosperous life ahead of him surrounded by family and friends that he has known all of his life in their rather insular tradition bound Jewish community.Into this idyllic setting comes the worm into the apple - Rachel's cousin, Ellie Schneider, the victim of a horrible tragedy in her youth and now fleeing New York City after a scandal that has caused her to be expelled from the graduate writing program at Columbia University. AT first Adam is appalled at Ellie - at her seemingly indifference to their values and mores of the community that he holds dear. But at the same time he finds himself drawn by both her beauty and vulnerability and comes to view her as a means to escape his own claustrophobic world.Of course, if you've read the original, you know what happens, but Ms. Segal writes with a deft hand and holds the reader's interest without her book devolving into a cheap parody of the original. This book should provide book groups everywhere with lots to talk about. Which is better? Dependence or independence? Security or adventure? Tradition or embracing the unknown of the new?
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