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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.
Celia A. (Takoma Park, MD)
OK but not great
I was intrigued by the premise--retelling the story of Age of Innocence in a modern setting. Even though we have such a fascination with scandal, it seemed like it would be a stretch to make such a scenario seem believable in the 21st century, but Francesca Segal seems to have pulled it off. Despite a turn toward melodrama at the end, the situation seems realistic enough. I don't know enough about the London Jewish community to know whether the portrayal is an accurate one. As Adam struggles with his feelings toward his fiancee and her cousin, I wanted to smack him and tell him to get over it. Despite that or maybe even because of it, I found that I didn't really care whom he chose, because I didn't particularly like Rachel or Ellie. The book was a relatively quick read, and it was OK but not great.
Shirley D. (Amherst, MA)
The Innocents shows meticulous research, and good grammar (always a sticking point for me). The second element I look for – strong vocabulary and interesting characters. While I thought The Innocents beautifully written, for me at least one character has to be one I can “know” and care about. I must hear him or her speaking to me from the pages and make me a little anxious to discover the how and when and why of that character’s life. Then I can’t stop turning page after page! I did not find that character here. I look forward to Segals’s next book and finding a "live" character and all that will make me love it.
Elizabeth K. (Glenshaw, PA)
Reading this introduced me to many Jewish customs and gave me a new knowledge of the special holidays celebrated. The story itself is one told many times; wanting what we can't have.
Mary H. (Phoenix, AZ)
It is truly a Family affair.
Marketed as a recasting of Edith Wharton's, The Age of Innocence, it is a pleasant read that would appeal to women of all ages.
The story holds some complex issues for adults who have narrowed their life choices. Expectations prove to be the norm for all the characters but one. The renegade cousin Ellie, although accepted due to circumstances beyond her control, is never totally a welcome family member. The participants all seem to teeter just on the brink of "social" failure only to find their way again. Need, want, desire and dreams all appear in this novel. Who arrives at their personal destination can only be determined by each individual but continually judged by all.
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.
Darra W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
Worthy Homage to a Classic
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.
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."
Lani S. (Narberth, PA)
good beach read
A light hearted rendition of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence taken from a Jewish family's perspective. Being Jewish myself, I found the cultural proclivities,kinship and value system to be "spot on". For individuals not familiar with Jewish culture, it will be an enlightening and educational opportunity. Using Judaism as a core gives this book more depth to explore the issues of family and lost innocence in this light and easy read.