The Innocents, Francesca Segal
HarperCollins, 357 pages
Adam Newman has been dating his fiancée, Rachel, for thirteen years. He works in her father’s law firm, and on Friday nights, he joins her family and friends for Shabat dinner. Every December, along with the other young, upwardly mobile Jewish people in their corner of northwest London, Adam and Rachel fly to Eilat, Israel for some winter sunshine. Life is predictable, safe, and good – a reassuring legacy for the grandchildren of the Holocaust survivors.
And then Rachel’s cousin returns from New York. Tall, bottle-blonde, and scantily clad, Ellie’s very appearance suggests a nonconforming nature that puts her at odds with the northwest London Jewish community. A longstanding affair with a married man, an expulsion from Columbia and a starring role in what some are calling an “art” film confirm that Ellie lives outside the conventions of Adam and Rachel’s world.
As Adam gets to know the person behind all the melodrama, he perceives, for the first time, that life offers more choices than he ever imagined. The question remains, however, whether or not he can pursue this freedom within the limits of the life he loves.
Full of love, turmoil and wry truth, Segal’s debut novel is a particularly brilliant adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.