In the June 2012 issue of Vogue, Francesca Segal discusses the classic from which The Innocents is based. Whereas The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, takes place in 19th century New York, The Innocents is set in the Jewish enclave of Temple Fortune (London), circa 2012. Like the Edith Wharton novel, The Innocents deals with young love and the allure of the forbidden. Segal's use of literary allusion provides a timeless look at upper-class society.
Newman is the childhood sweetheart of Rachel Gilbert, a good-hearted
young woman raised in the security of a protective and loving family.
Having lost his father at an early age, Adam has been welcomed into the
Gilbert home like a son. He is particularly close to Rachel's father
and works as a lawyer in his firm. But as plans for a large wedding are
being made, Adam begins to feel suffocated. The close-knit family
within the insular Jewish community offers security but insists on
conformity. To make matters worse, Rachel's cousin Ellie comes to visit
and Adam falls passionately in love with this troubled beauty. Unlike
Rachel, Ellie is uninhibited and promiscuous. Her life has been a
series of bad choices leading up to a scandal with an older married man.
In beautiful prose reminiscent of The Three Weissmann's of Westport
(Cathleen Schine, 2010), Segal explores the conflict between the safe
and conventional versus the exotic and the unknown. She also deals with
the dilemmas of young love amidst the strength of family bonds. In the
character of Adam, we see a young man who has never dealt with the grief
of losing a parent, whose very development has been stunted by
repressed anger. This is the quality he shares with Ellie, whose
self-destructive bent threatens to pull him under. The chemistry
between them, and the sense of impending disaster, keeps this novel
moving from the first page to the last.
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