Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: "The Innocents" by Francesca Segal

Maybe it's just me, but have you ever been reading a book that, if you didn't have other obligations, you would finish in one day, or even one sitting? If I had had the chance, I would have devoured Francesca Segal's excellent The Innocents in one day. But having to slow down my pace allowed me to savor it a little more, which certainly wasn't a bad thing.

Inspired by Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, yet set in Temple Fortune, a close-knit Jewish suburb of northwest London, the book follows Adam Newman, a successful and handsome 28-year-old who has recently gotten engaged to Rachel Gilbert, whom he has dated since the two were 16 and met on a tour of Israel. The two are celebrated for their engagement and have a relationship that is the envy of their community. Rachel's strong sense of right and wrong, her devotion to family and friends, and her relative innocence are some of the things that appeal most to Adam, and Rachel looks to Adam for the solid steadiness and protection she has always gotten from her parents. But when Rachel's younger cousin, Ellie, a troubled model and actress living in New York, comes to Temple Fortune, she brings chaos, drama, and a freeing excitement that Adam has never known. Should he risk all that he has built his life upon for a chance at a different kind of happiness he never expected, or should he stay the course that he has been destined to follow his entire life?

I thought Francesca Segal did a fantastic job with this book. The characters, while familiar in some ways, were unique, complex, and flawed, and you're truly not sure who to root for. She pays close attention to detail and has created a community and a circle of interconnected family and friends that you'd expect in a book twice this size. This book has humor, sadness, excitement, and hopefulness. I found myself hooked within the first few pages and wasn't able to let go until I finished reading. This was definitely a quick read, and a tremendously well-written one at that.

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