Review: The Innocents

The InnocentsFrancesca Segal, The Innocents

Adam Newman is a successful young lawyer living in the posh London suburb of Temple Fortune, home of a tightly-knit Jewish community. He is about to marry Rachel Gilbert, his childhood sweetheart and a thoroughly suitable girl in every way. The Newmans and the Gilberts have been friends for many years, and the entire community of Temple Fortune has embraced Adam and Rachel’s upcoming marriage. The only discordant element in their plans is Rachel’s cousin, Ellie Schneider, who has recently returned to London to avoid a scandal from her life in New York. Adam disapproves of almost everything about Ellie, yet he finds himself strongly attracted to her. The more time he spends with her, the more his safe and secure world begins to unravel. But can Adam really choose Ellie if it means leaving Rachel, her family, and Temple Fortune behind forever?

When I first heard about this book and realized that it was a contemporary retelling of The Age of Innocence, I was immediately intrigued because I love Wharton’s novel. Although I was skepitcal at first, I think Segal did a wonderful job of taking the same plot and transposing it to a contemporary setting. I didn’t find Adam to be the most likeable character, but the book depicts his struggle in such a compassionate light that it was easy to understand his conflicting desires. I also loved the portrayal of the Temple Fortune community, with its focus on family, shared values, and food. (Seriously, the food! Fair warning, this book will make you hungry!) I wasn’t totally sold on the character of Ellie and couldn’t quite see why Adam was so strongly drawn to her. But I really liked the fact that there were no easy answers; one minute I was rooting for Adam and Ellie, but the next I was feeling sympathy for Rachel. The ending is very bittersweet and poignant, just as in the original novel. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those who liked The Age of Innocence.

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