Fiction Review: The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Posted May 10, 2012 by Felicia S in 2.50 Wine Glasses, 2012 Read / 17 Comments


Author Website

A smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment, “The Innocents” is a generous and deeply satisfying look at a close-knit society in which one young man’s pre-wedding panic illuminates the universal conflict between responsibility and passion.

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?

Received for Review
Overall Rating 2.5
Story Rating 3.0
Character Rating 2.0

NOTE: I think Francesca Segal has a beautiful writing style. This is the first book I have read by her and I will read her again.

What I Loved: I loved learning more about the Jewish culture in England. The story weaved in details that were so rich and amazing that you could imagine what the daily lives of these particular people were like. I was pretty much WOW’d by the amount of rich detail that Francesca was able to include without making you feel hit over the head with it!

What I Liked: Jaffa (I probably spelled that wrong the book is not in front of me) was an amazing character. She was wise, caring, and was able to see things that other people missed. She took people at what they were and did not feel the need to judge them on what anyone else thought about them.

What wasn’t for me: Pretty much every other character in the story was unappealing to me. I thought I would like Ellie (the outsider) but we just never got enough of the story from her POV to make me want to be her champion. I felt sorry and/or pity for Rachel BUT towards the end I felt like she let her life happen to her. Adam was utterly unlikable to me from the beginning and I never warmed up to him. In fiction, I need someone to root for and I just didn’t have that in this story.

Final thought: This book is very well-liked by others and you should take that into consideration. When characters are a problem for a reader, it often means these same characters will appeal to other readers. That is such a personal thing! Francesca’s writing though was beyond beautiful and the story flowed effortlessly. You really should give it a try.

Felicia S
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17 responses to “Fiction Review: The Innocents by Francesca Segal

  1. I can totally understand. I’m kind of weird that I might not like a character but if I appreciate them, I will still enjoy the book. But if I don’t connect with a character or appreciate whatever they have to add, it just doesn’t work for me.

  2. So hard to get attached to a book when none of the characters really catch your interest. I’ve read a couple of great author, great writing books that I just couldn’t get into. Hopefully, your next book’s a knockout!

  3. Well even though your review is a bit tepid, I am a sucker for beautiful writing, so I might just have to check this out. I wish it had been a better read for you, Felicia. Enjoy your weekend 🙂

  4. This book sounds interesting… I’ll have to take a peek at it, because you’re right, when there’s no character that really interest you/has you rooting of for them, it’s not much of a good read.

  5. Nice review and I am sorry you did not like most characters. Difficult to enjoy a book when the characters don’t grab you.

  6. It doesn’t sound too bad and I do like learning about new cultures. I think I’d have a problem with the characters as well, but still might be an interesting read. They don’t have to be all 5 stars. 🙂

  7. The character thing would bug me too. It makes me so crazy when I view books so differently than other readers. I don’t know why, because books are like music. There is something for everyone & it doesn’t all have to be for me.

  8. Midnyte Reader

    I really liked this review. If I do decide to pick it up I will know ahead of time certain elements that may not appeal to me.