The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Set in the modern-day upper-crust Jewish community of North West London, a community still under the shadow of the Holocaust and where the bonds of family and tradition run deep, The Innocents is inspired by the stifling fin-de-siècle New York society immortalized in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Slyly humorous and deeply satisfying, The Innocents illuminates the conflict between responsibility and passion, security and exhilaration, tradition and independence.

Newly engaged and smugly self-satisfied, Adam Newman is forced to re-examine his life’s path when his fiancée’s prodigal cousin Ellie Schneider returns to London with rumors of a scandal swirling around her. Adam has been with local beauty Rachel for thirteen years, and her family adores him; he is even set to inherit her father’s business. In Rachel at age twenty-eight—sweet, innocent, conventional—he can see the home she would make for him at fifty. But Ellie, troubled, vulnerable, and fiercely independent, offers a liberation he had not known existed. Adam begins to see that he could choose for himself, but his choices will threaten the fabric of both family and community.

Visit Francesca Segal's official website, and read our Twitter discussion with the author from July 16th below! Make sure to follow the Jewish Book Council ( @jewishbook) and search #JBCBooks to follow next month's conversation! 

JewishBook: Welcome one and all to Twitter Book Club! Hey @francescasegal, what's happening in lovely London today? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook Hello everyone! Lovely London not so lovely today, sadly. Pouring with rain! #jbcbooks

JewishBook: .@francescasegal oy, bad for Jewish hair, good for inspiring writing? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook Extremely bad for the Jew-fro, it's true. Medium on the writing. Inching into something new, rather slowly... #jbcbooks

ErikaDreifus: About to take lunch break and join in @JewishBook chat w/ @FrancescaSegal (THE INNOCENTS). Join us! #JBCBooks

Ruthredsilk: @francescasegal @JewishBook How did you choose Age of Innocence to transpose into a Jewish book?

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook @ruthredsilk It was the opening scene, in the Academy of Music. So very much like shul! And themes felt so fresh #jbcbooks

ErikaDreifus: @francescasegal Thought of yr characters when news about planned attack(s?) in Jewish London broke last week. #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @erikadreifus Gd, how horrible. I will encourage them all to shop online! But one must sometimes go to GG to buy challah... #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @erikadreifus I hadn't seen that, actually. How truly awful. And yet not surprising at all. #jbcbooks

Nycbook: .@francescasegal how did you go about incorporating Age of Innocence? Was it just the start or did you refer to it while writing? #jbcbooks

JewishBook: So @francescasegal, we've seen reviews of The Innocents everywhere! Do you have a favorite blurb so far? Favorite reader comment? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook Everyone has been so lovely, I've been floored. One reader whole to say she was furious Adam waited so long to 1/2 #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook 2/2 to propose. I do like the impassioned emails addressed to characters. She said she was very cross with him. #jbcbooks

ErikaDreifus: @francescasegal Honestly, the news stayed with me longer/differently having just read your book. As if I'd just been there myself. #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @erikadreifus It's incredible to hear that, I'm so moved you found them so vivid. Anything that makes readers identify. Thank you!#jbcbooks

NaomiFirestone: .@francescasegal Were there any moments when you struggled btwn following Wharton's outline & diverging onto a diff path? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @NaomiFirestone The end. I really didn't know until late which way he'd go. I wanted him to have space to be his own character #jbcbooks

NaomiFirestone: .@francescasegal you should make email addresses for Adam and crew like @patrickerville #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @NaomiFirestone @patrickerville That piece looks fascinating, thanks! WIll read avidly later... #jbcbooks

ErikaDreifus: @francescasegal Can't help wondering what Wharton might think of your book! Any thoughts? #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @erikadreifus I'm fairly sure Edith Wharton would be deeply disapproving of my novel - she wasn't enormously keen on the Jews! #jbcbooks

ErikaDreifus: @francescasegal Which I've only just discovered thanks to your book. Maybe she'd approve of Ethan Goodman! ;-) #JBCBooks

JewishBook: .@francescasegal wow! how do you respond to those sorts of emails? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook I said Rachel's mother agreed with her! I love it. One writes a book alone; when people are moved to get in touch it means a lot

JewishBook: .@francescasegal- when you conceived of The Innocents, were you feeling at all disenchanted w/ the community in which you grew up? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook Hmm. Not disenchanted, but claustrophobic, and quite... contemplative. I was considering the paths it offered and 1/2#jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook 2/2 had been preoccupied with the choices my peers were making, There were questions I wanted to work through. #jbcbooks

ErikaDreifus: @francescasegal Speaking of vivid: I LOVE Ziva. May be my fav. character & made me wonder more about London survivor community. #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @erikadreifus Thank you! I'm so glad. London survivor community dwindling, as everywhere. @jewishcare does marvellous work #jbcbooks

MiriPomerantzD: .@francescasegal do you think there is a way to expand your worldview while remaining contented in a very insular community? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @MiriPomerantzD Absolutely, & it's a balance that a great many people in NWLondon have perfected. Choosing, consciously, to be in #jbcbooks

Elesscom: Greetings, @francescasegal & other @JewishBook conversants. Always happy to follow the #jbcbooks discussion

Bookgal102: .@francescasegal was it difficult to walk the line between creating composite characters without veering into clichés? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @BookGal102 Very, and I do hope I've managed. Ironically I was less concerned w traditional characters as I knew mine to be 1/2 #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @BookGal102 2/2 true to life, but I struggled with Ellie. I didn't want her to be a cliched "troubled model". I did my best! #jbcbooks

Bookgal102: .@francescasegal You did a great job! #JBCBooks

Erikadreifus: @FrancescaSegal Do the Columbia #MFA folks know they made it into your novel? #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @erikadreifus Ha, ha - goodness, I hope not! Unless they're proud of their students extra-curricular frolicking. Perhaps they are.#jbcbooks

Nycbook: .@francescasegal have you found more readers identifying with one character over another? aside from being mad at Adam? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @nycbook I think a lot of people identify with Adam. More than are mad at him. He's struggling to be good, struggling to choose. #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @nycbook And there is definitely a clear split between readers who want him with Rachel and those who want him racing off with E #jbcbooks

JewishBook: .@francescasegal has this book at all affected your relationship with the Jewish community of London? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook So far people have been incredibly positive about the book. Who knows, maybe voodoo dolls of me at home, though! #jbcbooks

Elesscom: It's so NY (to me) that a guy w a great relationship is always wondering if he could do better, @francescasegal #jbcbooks Guess London=same

FrancescaSegal: @elesscom Ha - yes, New York dating has always terrified me. In brief period I was there I couldn't really face it... #jbcbooks

Bookgal102: .@francescasegal what was your thought process in making E’s NY lover an art dealer? Did this have any particular symbolism? #jbcbooks

Bookgal102: .@francescasegal appearances versus what's really going on is what came to mind... #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @BookGal102 I'm not sure I thought it consciously but I'll claim it! How very clever of me. #jbcbooks

Nycbook: .@francescasegal have readers reacted to Adam "settling"- a little of Lori Gottlieb Or felt more positively? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @nycbook I missed that piece, it looks completely fascinating. People v divided, which I love. Some are hugely positive about1/2 #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @nycbook 2/2 about the life they see ahead of him; others feel he compromised too much and there is never a place for 'settling' #jbcbooks

MiriPomerantzD: .@francescasegal do you see Rachel regaining some of her own self once she's had a child? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @MiriPomerantzD Yes, I think motherhood must be enormously empowering. But she is who she is, for better or worse. #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @MiriPomerantzD and one of the qualities I admire in her is that she doesn't pretend to be anything else. #jbcbooks

ErikaDreifus: @francescasegal Perhaps changed financial circumstances may prompt some changes in Rachel & fam. More than the baby could. #JBCBooks

FrancescaSegal: @erikadreifus Yes, quite. That was what I saw, too. Growing up. Real life. #jbcbooks

Elesscom: Read when it was first published. #jbcbooks @nycbook @francescasegal Didn't settle. Waited & Mr Right appeared #happy

FrancescaSegal: @elesscom @nycbook Desperate to read the article now! Won't sneak a look till book club over, though... #jbcbooks

JewishBook: .@francescasegal stealing a Q. from last book club, what book, movie, recipe + clothing item would you want on a desert island? #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook book=Still Life byAS Byatt film=Annie Hall recipe=happiest with sushi. hopefully raw fish readily available on island #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook so no recipe required. clothing item= does lip balm count? can't cope without and no one else to see me naked. #jbcbooks

MiriPomerantzD: @francescasegal i think you could be in luck with the raw fish on a desert island. good choice! #jbcbooks

CopelessBot: RT @francescasegal: @JewishBook so no recipe required. clothing item= does lip balm count? can't cope without and no one else to see ...

JewishBook: Well @francescasegal thanks so much for answering our Twitter Book Club Q's, both serious and silly! We've loved chatting w/ you! #jbcbooks

FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook Thank you so much for having me - it's been brilliant. I loved it too (and craving sushi now). #jbcbooks

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