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.