From My Bookshelf: THE INNOCENTS, by Francesca Segal

Just a couple of days ago I mentioned that I’ve been reading The Innocents, the debut novel by Francesca Segal. As I noted, Segal’s book updates Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and transplants it to a tight-knit Jewish community in contemporary London.

I picked up a complimentary pre-publication copy (and had it signed by the author) at last month’s Book Expo America here in New York City. I also had the good fortune to catch one of Segal’s tweets about a reading she was giving at a bookstore in my neighborhood that same week, so I had the chance to hear the book’s opening section read aloud with a suitably British accent.

But it took a few weeks until I managed to start reading the book myself. Once I began, it was tough to put the book down. I’m not at all certain that all other readers will be as captivated by both elements of the book–the adaptation of the Wharton tale and the depiction of a Jewish community and its customs–as I was. But they sure captivated me.

I’ll leave you with a sampling of brief excerpts–passages that I found so resonant that they inspired me to dog-ear their respective pages and return to think consider them more intensively.

  • “There was no life event–marriage, birth, parenthood, or loss–through which one need ever walk alone. Twenty-five people were always poised to help. The other side of interference was support.” (emphasis added)
  • “The menu [for Friday night dinner] was predictable but there was safety in the weekly appearance of these foods–security, continuity and love. For a people whose history is one of exodus and eviction, the luxury of repetition is precious.” (emphasis added)
  • “‘The repercussions reach beyond those financially affected; he’s done damage to the entire Jewish community,’ she was saying, animated. ‘It won’t matter that he didn’t steal; history shows us that it’s enough that a Jew was involved and money was lost.'”

As I mentioned in the earlier post, the author will be participating in an online (Twitter) chat hosted by the Jewish Book Council on July 16th. Work schedule permitting, I plan to be there. How about you?