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The Innocents Hardcover – June 5, 2012

3.4 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"It is impossible to resist this novel's wit, grace, and charm."―Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia

"An emotionally and intellectually astute debut."―Kirkus

"A crafty homage. . . . [Segal] writes with engaging warmth."―Entertainment Weekly, Grade: B+

"Readers who enjoy fast-paced, gently satirical literary novels, fans of Allegra Goodman, and book group participants will find a Shabbat dinner's worth of noshing in this accomplished debut novel."―Library Journal

"The Innocents is written with wisdom and deliciously subtle wit, in the tradition of Jane Austen and Nancy Mitford. Francesca Segal has a remarkable ability to bring characters vividly to life who are at once warm, funny, complex, and utterly recognizable. This is a wonderfully readable novel: elegant, accomplished and romantic."―Andre Aciman, author of the award-winning Out of Egypt, Call Me by Your Name, and most recently Alibis

"A moving, funny, richly drawn story of a young man's attempts to find out who he wants to be when there are so many others who know best. Full of real pleasures and unexpected wisdom this book sweeps you along."―Esther Freud, author of Love Falls and, most recently, Lucky Break

"Inspired by The Age of Innocence, Segal's book is warmer, funnier, and paints a more dynamic and human portrait of a functional community that is a wonderful juxtaposition to Wharton's cold social strata."―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"[A] delightful first novel . . . Segal's writing is wise, witty and observant."―The London Times

"The Innocents is compelling and Segal writes with an understated elegance."―The Observer (UK)

"With understated wit, empathy and a cinematic eye of detail, Segal brings alive a host of characters so robust that you can easily imagine them onscreen... A winning debut novel."―People

About the Author

Francesca Segal was born in London in 1980. Brought up between England and America, she has been a freelance contributor to many of the UK's most prestigious publications. She has been a features writer at Tatler, and for three years wrote the Debut Fiction column in The Observer.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Voice; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401341810
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401341817
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #988,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joanna Daneman #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have often wondered what would happen if you wrote a novel using an existing plot structure and dressed it with new characters. Here, we have one of my absolutely favorite novels, the masterful "Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton, not only with the same theater set repainted and repurposed, but the same characters, dressed, not as Nineteenth Century New York Social List aristocrats, but as contemporary middle-class (really upper middle class) Jewish Londoners , a reverse of the New York social world--semi-ostracised from British high society but just as hermetic.

The characters are the familiar Newland Archer reborn as Adam Newman and May Welland becomes Rachel Gilbert. The third leg of the triangle Ellie Schneider is like Countess Ellen Olenska in that she's a creature of two lands belonging to neither (in this case, British-born but American-raised) and drenched in scandal. However, where the novel departs significantly from "Age of Innocence" is that Ellie truly is scandalous. Where Ellen Olenska sought to extricate herself from the socially acceptable but unbearable marriage in name only, an exchange for wealth and status, instead Ellie is besmirched by a past including making a porn film. She seems to take great care in flaunting herself as a modern "fallen woman" where it's not sex outside of marriage, but a lifestyle and inappropriate dress that make for clucking tongues.

The rest of the cast show up recognizably--Mrs Manson Mingott becomes Ellie's grandmother, Ziva, equally brave, somewhat unconventional and willful. Even the van der Luydens show up early, pillars of the community, fabulously wealthy and just as reclusive and exclusive.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an enjoyable and relatively conventional suburban drama of a close-knit Jewish community in NW London. Likewise, I applaud this debut author's sublime irony and chutzpah in her choice to revitalize but change the original version of THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, a novel written by the celebrated, anti-Semitic author, Edith Wharton, that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921! (Wharton, Scott Fitzgerald, and Henry James were all privileged people of their times) Segal gets the last laugh by writing this tidy, classy novel about manners and family, and security versus passionate spontaneity. THE INNOCENTS takes place in contemporary times.

Twenty-eight-year-olds Adam Newman (cf. Newland Archer in AOI) and Rachel Gilbert (May Welland) have been together for a dozen years, engaged to be married, and comfortable and secure in their tight knot of overlapping and extended family and friends. Rachel has never been with any other man but Adam, and Adam's experience is limited (by today's standards). He is smug in his knowledge of Adam and Rachel, Rachel and Adam. Although his father died when he was very young, leaving an unresolved grief in his heart, Rachel's father, Lawrence, has embraced him like a son, even hired him to work as an attorney in his firm. They are as close as in-laws could be. The marriage in a year will seal the deal, and bring the families even closer.

"There was no life event--marriage, birth, parenthood, or loss--through which one need ever walk alone. Twenty-five people were always poised to help. The other side of interference was support."

In walks the prodigal cousin, returned from New York, Ellie Schneider (Ellen Olenska in AOI), a twenty-two-year old statuesque, bottle-blonde beauty.
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4 Comments 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In many ways this book is more exasperating than enjoyable. To anyone who is familiar with the Jewish community of NW London (as I am) much of it seems contrived and somewhat absurd. The two main characters who carry most of the plot are almost simple-minded in their "innocence". The fact that they have a romantic relationship for 12 years until aged 28 before finally (if reluctantly on the groom's part) marrying is sheer nonsense. No middle class Jewish girl and especially not her mother, would tolerate such a dragged out romance for so long. Rachel, the bride in question, thinks she is being irresistibly cute by having no other interest in life other than the organization of her wedding, which involves a full year of obsessive planning for every minor detail. Adam, the prospective groom, suddenly and belatedly realizes (after 12 years!) that she gets on his nerves with her blandness and total lack of interest in anything outside her immediate and familiar environment. He has fallen madly in love with Rachel's cousin, a drug user, porn film star and former mistress of a well known married man who supported her financially for her sexual favors. A real prize! The other female characters in this ostensibly realistic portrayal of London Jewish society are shallowly and superficially drawn. Most are very well educated, MDs and PHDs abound, but they too seem to have no actual professional ambitions. First and foremost, It's the achievement of an MRS. in front of their names that is their primary concern. The only woman who has serious intellectual depth is Adam's sister, an Oxford don, who seems totally indifferent to the possibility of romantic attachment. She calmly accepts the probability of permanent spinsterhood without making the slightest attempt to appear attractive to any man.Read more ›
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