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.
Jane D. (Boulder, CO)
Innocents and innocence
I was mesmerized by this book. I always like getting to know a different world, and in this case it was the Jewish community in London. It does exactly what I love about good literature—shows the universal human condition and emotions in a setting and culture different from my own. It also touches on current financial issues. A very enjoyable read. I didn't want it to end.
Emily G. (Clear Lake, MN)
An excellent revisioning of a timeless classic
I’ve been eager to read this book since I first heard about it and so was thrilled to receive a pre-publication copy from BookBrowse. Edith Wharton is one of my favorite writers. So, with a little fear about a rewriting and a lot of excitement, I dove into The Innocents.
Could anyone write as wonderfully as Edith? Alas, no, but Segal does an admirable job and, at points, echoes Wharton so strongly it made me smile: “She signed, and the timbre of her sigh could have resonated with anything from exhaustion to despair.” Segal resets Age of Innocence in a modern, Jewish community in London and meshes her changes nearly seamlessly with Age of Innocence’s plot. Even the character names, Adam instead of Newland for example, hit the right note between old and new. I never forgot I was reading a rewriting of Wharton, and was long annoyed at the recasting of Countess Olenska as the younger Ellie, but I was continually surprised at how astutely Segal changed details to make the social commentary of Wharton’s work shed just as much light on modern life. From the older-man sex and money scandal, to the loss of pension funds, each detail worked to create a modern and compelling story.
Generally, I am skeptical of and disappointed in modern rewritings of classics, but The Innocents didn’t disappoint. Segal showed both her power as a writer and the timelessness of Wharton’s observations and assessments. I think Wharton would be pleased; I was.
Darra W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
Worthy Homage to a Classic
I was attracted to this book because of early comparisons to "The Age of Innocence," one of my all-time favorite novels. I figured I'd either love it or hate it. The "jury" is in: Segal has crafted a deft homage to Wharton's Pulitzer classic, transporting the focus from the upper-echelons of late-19th-century NY citizenry to contemporary North West London, the established center of the city's thriving Jewish society. The plot, the characters, the themes are very much the same, but unfold with a freshness and flair that has much to offer today's reader. How much have things really changed in 140 years? A great choice for book clubs--lots to discuss; would make a great tandem read with Wharton's "Age."
Shirley L. (Norco, LA)
An Enjoyable Read
First and foremost reading a novel should be enjoyable and The Innocents certainly was. The characters were complex and not stereotyped. The description of this modern Jewish community was haunting beautiful. Themes of risk versus safety, the individual versus the family, passion versus comfort were all thoughtfully developed. Lots of shades of gray were provided and no easy answers given. An intelligent, warm, quiet read that I found thoroughly satisfying.
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.
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.