Francesca Segals debut nov­el The Inno­cents is now avail­able. She will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

I would nev­er have set out to recast a clas­sic, Pulitzer-win­ning Amer­i­can nov­el – it seemed the height of chutz­pah. But once the idea took up res­i­dence in my mind it proved impos­si­ble to dis­lodge. I was liv­ing in New York when I read it – far away from the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in north-west Lon­don in which I have lived for most of my life. And, read­ing a nov­el set in 1870’s haute New York soci­ety, I felt such an unex­pect­ed, urgent, vivid sense of recog­ni­tion that I could no longer imag­ine writ­ing anoth­er word until I had writ­ten this. The trap­pings were dif­fer­ent but the social con­cerns, the pres­sures, the close­ness and longevi­ty of friend­ships, the judge­ment, the parochial­ism, and the para­mount impor­tance of What Every­body Thinks – it was just the same. Gold­en Age New York to Gold­ers Green. The cen­tral dilem­mas remain essen­tial and unresolved.

Wharton’s nov­el pro­vid­ed a vehi­cle; a means to explore cer­tain ques­tions that intrigued me. What is it that makes a good mar­riage? Is it friend­ship and com­mon inter­est, or is it pas­sion? Is roman­tic love the cor­ner­stone of a hap­py life? Are there oth­er loves – parental, famil­ial, com­mu­nal – that can be equal­ly ful­fill­ing, or do they remain hol­low with­out a dri­ving pas­sion for one soul beside you? I have heard both cas­es put with elo­quence and con­vic­tion, and I want­ed to exam­ine these, amongst oth­er ideas. I would nev­er pre­sume to tell a read­er how to inter­pret my nov­el – I adore the con­flict­ing emails I’ve had from read­ers – equal­ly impas­sioned mes­sages of either joy or out­rage on dis­cov­er­ing the choice that Adam ulti­mate­ly makes between Rachel and Ellie; between safe­ty and free­dom; between fam­i­ly and passion.

Vis­it Francesca Segal’s offi­cial web­site here and join JBC on July 16th for a Twit­ter Book Club con­ver­sa­tion with Francesca.

Francesca was born in Lon­don in 1980. Brought up between the UK and Amer­i­ca, she stud­ied at St Hugh’s Col­lege, Oxford, before becom­ing a jour­nal­ist and writer. Her work has appeared in Gran­ta, Newsweek, the Guardian, the Finan­cial Times, and Vogue UK and US, amongst many oth­ers. She has been a fea­tures writer at Tatler, and for three years wrote the Debut Fic­tion col­umn in the Observ­er. The Inno­cents won the Jew­ish Book Award for Fic­tion and the Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture in 2013.