The Innocents
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The Innocents

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3.14 of 5 stars 3.14  ·  rating details  ·  3,631 ratings  ·  681 reviews
WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2012

What if everything you'd ever wanted was no longer enough?

Adam and Rachel are getting married at last. Childhood sweethearts whose lives and families have been intertwined for years; theirs is set to be the wedding of the year.

But then Rachel's cousin Ellie makes an unexpected return to the family fold. Beautiful, reckless and trou...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Hyperion (first published January 1st 2012)
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Lovely Covers
52nd out of 499 books — 382 voters
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BEST JEWISH THEMED NOVELS OF RECENT TIMES
5th out of 36 books — 36 voters


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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Don't be put off by my three-star rating. The writing is superb. Quite stunning, really, for a first novel. It's just one of those stories in which very little occurs, aside from the dailiness of life in a wealthy, tightly-knit community. This novel is modeled after Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, which is also a well-written book in which nothing much happens.

The most appealing thing for me about the story is its Jewishness. For a non-Jew like me, there was a lot to discover.
switterbug (Betsey)
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 unspoken but 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...more
Elaine
Mar 24, 2013 Elaine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This was a 2.5, but I'm giving it a first novelist .5 bump up. This had the same affect as Song of Achilles -- it just made me want to re-read the source material, Edith Wharton's brilliant Age of Innocence. The central problem with The Innocents is, in fact, its source material -- the entire book feels like a mental exercise -- "how can we re-create the rigid hierarchies and complex social codes of 1870s upper-crust New York in the modern world?" It's a difficult problem, since we live in a mob...more
Jennifer
When I started reading this book, right off the bat, I thought "this reminds me of 'The Age of Innocence'". And then I read a bit more and realized, this IS "The Age of Innocence" except the names, place and religion of the main characters is different! Instead of late 19th century New York, the story is set in 21st century London, in a close-knit Jewish community. It is almost like she had an Age of Innocence template, and inserted (date), (name), (place) and the computer spit out this book.

The...more
Jan Rice
In the rotation of crops there was a recognized season for wild oats, but they were not to be sown more than once. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence


This epigraph marks the start of The Innocents, so what instigated my reading The Age of Innocence a little while ago is now apparent. The Innocents is a modern retelling of the classic. Fun!

**Spoiler Advisory** This book is based on a classic so of necessity some plot points may come up. If you've never read The Age of Innocence or seen the movie...more
Elisha Singer
I really had issues with this book. I can't count the number of times where I wanted to physically shake one character or another. I think that is the crux of my problem with this novel: I had a difficult time liking the main characters. Adam, our "hero" (and I use the term loosely) is a putz. I wanted to smack some sense into him and force him to make a decision. There were so many times I wanted to stop reading because I genuinely didn't like him. His fiancée also got on my nerves. I wanted he...more
Bonnie
Thank you to Hyperion Books for my early copy of The Innocents!

'The Innocents' is a story which delves into a man's pre-wedding fears and how he wavers between doing what he knows is right and what his heart is telling him. The story which is fashioned after Edith Wharton's 'The Age of Innocence' is a classic that I have yet to read so I can't be too sure how closely the two stories are. I don't believe that this would have been a story I would have snagged off the shelf to take home with me; ho...more
Rabbi Andrea
Edith Warthon Age of Innocence located in North London Jewish community. It takes certainly hutzpah to turn the work of an Anti-semite writer into a Jewish novel. Segal managed to do it, and the result is a good read. But the pattern is probably too evident.
The literary play is sophisticated and definitively enjoyable. My favourite: in this British Jewish family, there is an Israeli elderly lady, so much "in-your-face" kind of person, and definitively not-British (English is not her native tong...more
K
Apr 23, 2013 K rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: jewish
I never read The Age of Innocence, so I can't judge this as a retelling. But as a stand-alone book, it really didn't work for me.

The basic story is that Adam, who has dated Rachel for 12 years and is finally engaged to her, suddenly falls passionately in love with Rachel's cousin Ellie, your classic angsty manic pixie dream girl, gorgeous and troubled and dysfunctional and also brilliant and deep of course, lest you think this is just about lust or anything. The subtext, if you can call it that...more
Lydia Presley
I've read so many good books in the last few weeks, and I like to think it's because I'm finally improving in my selections. The Innocents by Francesca Segal is another notch in that thought-process belt, because this is one story that packed a punch for me, subtle as it was.

I hadn't heard of this title until it cropped up on a list of modern day adaptations of novels that should be read. The cover of this one caught my eye, and although I haven't read Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, the i...more
M
Retellings are a complicated genre for me. On the one hand, they strike me as lazy and glorified plagiarism, and I therefore feel the stakes are that much higher. Can this book stand on its own? Should it be able to? Is it offering new insight to the previous work? Does the story suffer for having to meet a contrived criteria rather than grow organically?
I have had some bad experiences in the world of retellings - Edgar Sawtelle, for one, where it seemed to just be "ha ha, look, the uncle's name...more
Rebecca Foster
(4.5) What a stunning debut from Francesca Segal. A 32-year-old first-time novelist has no business writing such a sophisticated, pitch-perfect homage to Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Her strategy is that of Zadie Smith in her gorgeous On Beauty: giving a classic novel a new home in contemporary north London, but staying true to the emotional content – the interplay of love and desire, jealousy and frustration (in Smith’s case, the model is E.M. Forster’s Howards End). And yet knowledge...more
Mary Beth
Probably I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if so many reviews hadn't compared it to "The Age of Innocence." Who could live up to that? Really? Sure, the parallels are there, but Wharton's book is a classic, and Segal's pretty forgettable.
The writing was flowing and the portrayal of Jewish life in London's upper crust neighborhoods was very interesting. It was the central characters that I roundly detested.
Adam Newman? A stupid young man who makes predictable choices when he thinks with...more
Simon
When I was growing up in England, in the 60s and 70s, Mike Yarwood was a big presence on TV. He did impressions - I remember his Ted Heath and Harold Wilson, and there were tons of others. I love impressions like that. Also, a good cover of a song I like is way more enjoyable to me for being a cover. I feel these two passions are connected, though I can't quite see how, since impressions are better the more like the original they are, while covers must both resemble and differ from the original...more
Jane
I owe Francesca Segal a debt of gratitude, because by reworking The Age of Innocence in a contemporary setting she inspired me to go back and reread Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It was, and is, a joy, and Edith Wharton’s understanding and eloquence have me very nearly lost for words.

Comparisons are inevitable, of course they are, but Francesca Segal’s love and understanding of her source material shines, and she has used it well to create a contemporary novel that can stand or f...more
Kathryn
This book is based on The Age of Innocence, one of my favorite novels of all time. That could make me biased, but it usually just makes me highly judgmental. For example, I HATED the movie, despite its "award-winning" sheen. I thought it had no soul compared to the book. Not so The Innocents. It's very hard to duplicate, in modern times, the kind of close-knit and closed culture of early 20th century New York society, but Segal finds the perfect modern foil--a middle-class Jewish suburb of Londo...more
Meera
There's been a lot of hype about this book, and its not quite as clever as it thinks it is. Basically its Wharton's Age of Innocence (which I've now got to read, as I imagine its better!) transposed to modern day London and an elite Jewish enclave who live in Hampstead Garden Suburb. It is really well written, and I was intrigued about the way that the Jewish community live their lives in such an insular fashion (if what the author says is true) - I had to laugh when the protagonist Adam feels h...more
Sari
I loved this book!!

While the plot could be summarized as nice Jewish boy meets and marries nice Jewish girl, while lusting after nice Jewish girl's not so nice (at least by alleged reputation) female cousin, the author sets this story in a close-knit British Jewish community. It is the respect that the main characters have for their religious traditions and the loyalty and love that the characters have for each other, their family, and their close friends, that elevates this relatively simple t...more
Bookkaholic Magazine
(See our full review over at Bookkaholic.) What a stunning debut from Francesca Segal. Each character is expertly drawn, from Adam’s sex-obsessed best mate to a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and matriarch. This story of longing and dissatisfaction in London’s Jewish suburbia pairs brilliantly with Wharton’s elegant examination of upper-class society life.
Carol
This is Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence" - a rewrite of an old story in new clothes. I'm becoming weary of rewrites of old classics. I think I may write an update of "Pride and Prejudice," bring it into the 1970's, rename all the characters, have it take place in New York City, hope some publisher will buy it, publish it, I will make lots of money and be called an author!


Sarah
I really should have just read 'Age of Innocence' instead.

This was a cheap 'modern re-telling' of Age of Innocence, and it was agonizing to get through. I actually kept leaving it alone while I read other books, then came back to it.

So the protagonist, Adam, is happy and content to marry his longtime girlfriend Rachel. They are part of a very traditional Jewish family with 'values.' Things take a turn for the unexpected when Rachel's cousin Ellie appears on the scene and Adam is ridiculously at...more
Susie
The remaking of any classic is shark infested waters, and I give Segal her due in attempting to redo "The Age of Innocence." I thought, "really, really? She's going to do this?" because this is one of my favorite books of all time.

I had severe qualms on how Segal could transition a novel set in unique traditional Old New York, and translate the plot to a present day situation where confining standards, morals, and high values would take precedence, and a community could play such an integral p...more
Larry Hoffer
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...more
Emily Crowe
Okay, I'm just going to say this up front: the first time I picked up The Innocents, it was for the beautiful cover. I was completely drawn to it. Then my sales rep told me that it was a retelling of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, at which point I was totally sold. Ethan Frome notwithstanding, I'm a big fan of Wharton, and though The Age of Innocence isn't my favorite of her books, I knew that this book would go home with me to start reading right away.


Francesca Segal transplants Wharton'...more
Sterlingcindysu
This is basically a remake of The Age of Innocence. It hasn't been all that long ago that I plowed through it. If you haven't read either, this one is much easier and enjoyable to read. But if you're read TAOI, then I'd skip this--really, it's the same book except for the differences of time and setting. Sure people go and watch remakes of movies, so why not books? I'd give the story 3 stars, but I knocked one off because well, Segal knocked this off.

This was the same case with When She Woke as...more
Andrea Borod
As we are exposed to both shocking and in-your-face sexual content in the news and elsewhere in the media, it's hard to recast the famously scandalous Countess Olenska on which Segal's Ellie is based: nothing about her seems all that terrifying except for the fact that, in this tiny world of suburban Jews in North London, she is exactly what scares them most: something different.

I think Segal did a fine job recreating a challenging and beloved text (albeit the weight of the scandal that Olenska...more
Pamela
This story is a modern take on Edith Wharton’s “Age of Innocence”. I heard the author speak on 10/29/12. She is 33 years old, the daughter of Erich Segal of “Love Story” fame. The story is a good read, very well written, excellent character development. It is the story of a young man, Adam Newman who has grown up in a very insular Jewish suburb in NorthWest London. He is getting ready to marry his sweetheart Rachel Schneider, who he has dated for 13 years. She appears to be the ideal wife, and e...more
Jeanne
Given my sieve-like memory, I'd totally forgotten friends' reviews and what this book was about. I picked it out of the pile by my bed to read over Shabbat, and read the back cover blurb and reviews, and they gave no hint of what awaited inside. The NW London Jewish aspect is totally missing from the outside, and it came as quite a shock and surprise to me when I started reading. It was a one-day read, and quite engrossing. An interesting juxtaposition to the new Zadie Smith that I just read, al...more
Valentina
It’s a tricky task to retell a well known and well loved story. It’s rarely a successful undertaking, and this book, unfortunately, is not an exception.
This is a retelling of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, a wonderfully complex book woven around the upper crust of Victorian New York society. In this version, the plot takes place in London, in a wealthy Jewish community. The main issue is that so much of the nuances in the original are completely lost in this version. Everything is thrown...more
Liz Rosenberg
This is an exquisitely written novel, and I read it in about two days. The book is seamless. And the author is gifted.

My only question is, why write the book? It is not merely based on Wharton's THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, I'd go so far as to say it's a modern day version of THE AGE OF INNOCENCE. And I'm shocked by one reader who claimed it was "better than the original." For one thing, the Wharton novel is brilliant. For another, it was ahead of its time, it was a beautiful invention-- and it seems t...more
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5081840
Winner of the 2012 Costa Prize for First Fiction.
Winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction
Winner of the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize
Winner of the 2013 Premio Letterario Edoardo Kihlgren Opera Prima in Milan
Winner of the 2013 Harold U. Ribalow Prize

Long-listed for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction

Francesca Segal is an award-winning writer and journalist. Her work has appeared in Granta, th...more
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“The marriage of a Jewish son is a bittersweet prospect. There is relief, always, that he has navigated the tantalizing and plentiful assemblies of non-Jewish women to whom the children of the Diaspora are inevitably exposed: from the moment he enters secondary school there is the constant anxiety that a blue-eyed Christina or Mary will lure him away from the tribe. Jewish men are widely known to be uxorious in all the most advantageous ways. And so each mother fears that, whether he be short and myopic, boorish or stupid or prone to discuss his lactose intolerance with strangers, whether he be blessed with a beard rising almost to meet his hairline, he is still within the danger zone. Somewhere out there is a shiksa with designs on her son. Jewish men make good husbands. It is the Jewish woman's blessing as a wife, and her curse as a mother.” 2 likes
“It had been the most relaxed that either of them had been for as long as he could remember--certainly since their engagement. Rachel had spun and twittered for the first few days, disoriented without a wedding as the epicenter of her near future. But the pleasure of the postmortem and of being, finally, just the two of them, had aided her recovery. By the end of the first week she was almost convincing when she said brightly, 'I'm so glad it's all over and we get to get on with normal life!' She had repeated this assertion a lot since they'd arrived, but that had been the first time that she hadn't sounded crestfallen.” 1 likes
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