A smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment; a triumphant and beautifully executed recasting of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence.
Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community - a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam's role in a warm, inclusive family he loves.
But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel's younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he'd care to admit. Ellie - beautiful, vulnerable, and fiercely independent - offers a liberation that he hadn't known existed: a freedom from the loving interference and frustrating parochialism of North West London. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?
"Starred Review. The book is full of delightful moments... Segal took the theme of a well-known novel and made it her own. Lively and entertaining." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. 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 by the daughter of author Erich Segal." - Library Journal
"Segal thoughtfully ties in family Holocaust lore and high-holiday gatherings to show that those long-standing bonds are tough to break. Even if the plot and themes are second-hand, this is an emotionally and intellectually astute debut." - Kirkus Reviews
"It is impossible to resist this novel's wit, grace, and charm." - Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia
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Rated of 5
Barbara W. (Watertown, NY)
A totally tasty read! The underlying connection to Edith Wharton's book enhanced the storyline as my mind kept making comparisons to characters and plot. The contemporary setting created a completely updated twist on Wharton's classic themes.
Rated of 5
Tillie H. (Baltimore, MD)
This book has an interesting storyline, but there is so much extraneous material in it that it became a chore to get through it. The plot intrigued me, but I just couldn't get through the entire thing because of how things moved so slowly.
Rated of 5
Susan M. (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Tries but in the end...
This book peaked my interest by the second chapter and as I read I thought this might be a good book for my book group. Unfortunately midway through part 2 I began to doubt that this book would be a good book group book. Reading part 3 sealed the deal. Midway through part 2 the author throws in a family crisis which was vaguely foreshadowed on page 18, but never really explored. Part 3 was just a quick tying together of loose ends. I gave the book a 3 because I thought the writing was quite good and I found myself caring about the characters. Unfortunately the plot lines strayed and weakened. With additional editing and rewriting I would say that this book has strong potential.
Rated of 5
Rosemary C. (Austin, TX)
A well-done story about the contrast of the somewhat banal everyday, secure, familiar and predictable life with the exotic and unfamiliar that can create an almost irresistible draw. I thought this book a slow read at first, but I think that is what the author intended to exemplify the everyday life of Adam and the Jewish community in London. The pace picked up with the introduction of the forbidden cousin and Adam's strong attraction to her. The characters are well-developed and likable, and this reader could feel empathy for all of them. I could sense the almost claustrophobic atmosphere of the tight-knit community, but also appreciate its warmth, generosity and support. It's understandable that Adam would be drawn to an "outsider" so different from what he has known and it's interesting to read what choices he and those he is closest to make in a crisis. All in all, a satisfying book.
Rated of 5
Pamela F. (Grants Pass, OR)
For me this book was a slow starter. I think it was because I did not attach to the characters that much and that was a problem throughout for me. I enjoyed reading about the Jewish culture, but the characters kind of annoyed me. It was an interesting concept to take a classic and put it in today's world...I finished it, I didn't dislike it, but not one of my favorites.
Rated of 5
Sarah B. (Streamwood, IL)
An excellent retelling of an old favorite. I enjoyed the book very much, but found that I didn't like the three main characters very much. I suppose that shows how well written the book is. The framing of the story in the Jewish community added extra interest to me, as it was an interesting way to learn about customs and traditions that were new to me.
Francesca Segal was born in London and studied at Oxford and Harvard University before becoming a journalist and critic. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Guardian, and The Observer, among other publications. For three years she wrote the Debut Fiction column in The Observer and was, until recently, a features writer at Tatler. She lives in London. Visit her online at www.francescasegal.com.
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