Join Francesca Segal to talk about April Book of the Month, THE INNOCENTS, Tuesday April 30, 9-10pm

(112 Posts)

Firstly, many congratulations to our April author Francesca Segal - not only the winner of the Costa First Novel Award, but also now longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, announced two days ago.

Francesca's debut novel is a beautifully executed homage to Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. The central story of THE INNOCENTS - a newly engaged couple from a privileged community, whose impending marriage is threatened by a dangerously seductive cousin - remains the same. But Segal's transports the characters to contemporary London, specifically the sheltered and insular Jewish community of Hampstead Garden Suburb. Adam and Rachel have known each other since childhood; their families (like all the families they know) meet in the same synagogue, holiday in the same Israeli resort, gather at the same feasts at each other's houses year after year. When the wayward and vulnerable model Ellie Schneider arrives back from New York, she causes much consternation in her inability to act 'appropriately'. To Adam, her presence makes him reevaluate everything he held dear: the stability and security that he has always strived for suddenly appearing claustrophobic and restrictive. Segal's masterstroke is her anthropological take on society: the collision between timeless Jewish customs and the changing world beyond the NW postcode, and the endless cultural expectations that every character - from shiksa bride to widowed matriarch to ex-pat New Yorker - must shoulder. Fun, observant and a clever twist on tradition.

You can find more details on our April book of the month page, where there are 50 FREE copies to give to Mumsnetters - to claim yours please fill in the form on the book of the month page. We'll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

Find out more at Francesca's beautifully designed website or you can follow her on Twitter: @francescasegal

There are also interesting discussion points and a Q&A on the Vintage website.

We are thrilled that Francesca will be answering questions about THE INNOCENTS, her prizes and her writing career on Tuesday 30 April, 9-10pm. So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month and then come and meet the author on Tues 30. Hope you can join us...

DuchessofMalfi Wed 27-Mar-13 08:03:47

Thank you for my copy, which arrived yesterday smile Looking forward to reading it.

lasttothebar Wed 27-Mar-13 21:17:21

Thanks mine arrived today

gailforce1 Tue 02-Apr-13 18:16:14

I have just placed a reservation for this book with the library. Looking forward to getting a copy and getting started.

My husband is completely engrossed in my copy now, which is interesting as I wouldn't have had it down as his cup of tea. But I think it is a very more-ish book.

Hope everyone got their copies now?

Xmasbaby11 Sun 07-Apr-13 23:33:06

Has anyone managed to find the extra stuff on the Vintage website? I am reading it for book group and wanted some discussion points.

gailforce1 Mon 08-Apr-13 09:51:44

I found some critics reviews on Vintage by typing in The Innocents in the Search bar but no discussion points for a book club. There was a pretty uninspiring reader review as well! Still waiting for my copy from the library. Have you started it Xmas?

Picturesinthefirelight Mon 08-Apr-13 12:51:29

I've ordered it from the library. I'm second in the queue.

LadyMountbatten Mon 08-Apr-13 22:43:49

I downloaded kindle sample and gave up I'm afraid. The Yiddish annoyed me.

Fourkisses Tue 09-Apr-13 14:09:45

Thanks for my copy. Currently only on chapter 4. The Jewish words have made it a bit of a chore to get into at first but I hope I've got over that now. Needing to google to see what they all mean grin

Choccheesecake Tue 09-Apr-13 15:36:09

I read this over the weekend - just couldn't put it down. With relatives in exactly that area I knew every place and every person (convinced Rachel is a morph of two of my cousins!) and absolutely loved it.

I do have one question though... Most of the stuff in the book implies that the main characters are orthodox (as in synagogue rather than observance...) ie the sitting in the ladies' gallery and the various customs and rituals (tashlich) etc. But a couple of things didn't quite fit. Adam's sister was (I think) 13 when her father died and her bat mitzvah was looming - yet if she was orthodox it would have taken place at 12. Ditto the Hoop Lane crem stuff (ie orthodox/traditional Jews are buried and not cremated).

Given Adam's father was the religious one of the family and most of the other characters so perfectly reflect the United synagogue-style community that I know from Hampstead Garden Suburb I just wondered whether this was an error or done intentionally?

Lomaamina Tue 09-Apr-13 21:36:29

I loved your book, which I can happily say I read months ago, when I first spotted a review in one of the Sundays. I must admit to not being well-read enough to get the 'Age of Innocence' allusions, but that's no matter: I found the book unputdownable and I felt the main character's difficulties with the strictures of the community were very true to life and (as you said in a recent radio interview I believe) just as true for any other family-oriented community as the Jewish. My only slight discomfort was with how the central characters seemed to move through life on tracks perfectly oiled by the comfort of financial security. All those generous trips to Eilat!

My question is: do you think that the real-life equivalents to your main protaganists are likely to recognise themselves in this picture; to be equally chafing at the narrowness of their (albeit supremely comfortable) lives? Or are they going to be identifying with Rachel through and through?

DuchessofMalfi Sun 14-Apr-13 13:59:35

Just started reading it this morning. So far so good, but could do with a glossary for the Hebrew phrases.

Lomaamina Sun 14-Apr-13 15:58:18

DuchessofMalfi happy to offer my translation services for free grin!

DuchessofMalfi Sun 14-Apr-13 19:03:10

grin Thanks - I might take you up on that Lomaamina!

oldmacdonaldhadafarm Mon 15-Apr-13 17:42:39

Chatting about the book with a friend (I loved it btw) and she said that you are Eric Segal's daughter. Is this true? How did I not know this? I looooove his books and have read them all over and over (if it is true did that put a lot of pressure on you to succeed in the same field?)

SarahAndFuck England Tue 16-Apr-13 20:19:26

I downloaded this to my Kindle and loved every word. If you haven't finished reading the book, don't read this though.

I was interested in Rachel very much. She was very much dismissed throughout the book as an only child, a spoilt child, a pampered child who had grown-up to become a bit of a child-woman, in need of constant soothing and gentle handling, helpless, a perfect Jewish princess who relied on her parents and fiancé to continue the pampering and pandering so she didn't really have to grow up all that much.

Everyone in the book seemed to like her but Adam swayed between adoration and annoyance. And she was annoying. But he seemed to view her as being so naive and self-involved and satisfied with her lot that it was only at the very end that she came across as being very shrewd and clever, and he suddenly came across as being incredibly naive about her.

I didn't like her very much as presented through Adam's eyes, I preferred Ellie, but Rachel right at the end was the one who seemed to come out of the book as the most complex person after all.

Lomaamina Tue 16-Apr-13 20:24:20

SarahAnd I so agree with your analysis. She really came true in the end and you almost wanted to go back and see if you'd missed the clues to her character earlier on.

SarahAndFuck England Tue 16-Apr-13 20:34:10

I know I will reread the book at some point Loma, and I will be looking out to see if I missed things about her. And I'm hoping to like her more the next time I read the book.

SarahAndFuck England Tue 16-Apr-13 20:37:01

I've also downloaded The Age of Innocence (free on Kindle) so I can compare. I've never read it, so I'm wondering how I might view it having read this one first.

Lomaamina Tue 16-Apr-13 21:19:51

I bought The Age of Innocence, but to my shame, I failed to get into it. Let me know how you get on, won't you?!

SarahAndFuck England Tue 16-Apr-13 23:06:19

I will. Have you given up completely, or will you try it again at another time? I find sometimes it's just not the right time for a book, but often love them on the second or third attempt.

Lomaamina Wed 17-Apr-13 10:13:33

That's a point (which makes me feel a bit less dim): I think I wasn't in the mood to memorise who all the different characters were. My day job is spent reading (and writing blush) lots of rather dense academic text so I tend to look for lighter reads for the evening. Thanks to your tip I've downloaded a free Kindle version, which should hopefully mean I can search back for characters' names as I did recently with the brilliant John Lanchester's 'Capital'.

I'm currently reading the enthralling 'The Soldier's Wife' (thanks to mumsnet for the free copy! www.mumsnet.com/Talk/mumsnet_q_and_a/a1672994-Q-A-with-author-Joanna-Trollope-Send-a-Question-and-enter-a-draw-to-win-one-of-ten-copies-of-her-latest-book-The-Soldiers-Wife-ANSWERS-BACK).

gailforce1 Wed 17-Apr-13 17:53:28

No sign of my copy arriving at the library any time soon so I wont be able to join this month's chatsad see you all in May..

Xmasbaby11, we're hunting for reading group material on the Vintage website too - have contacted them and will let you know.

Interested in the posts about Rachel v Ellie. Despite Rachel's princessy perfection, I found Ellie more predictable than Rachel, in her model/rebel/damaged girl way.

I have started to re-read original Age of Innocence too. First time I read was for a Eng Lit course comparing novels with film adaptations, and I could only remember Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Rider in big dresses.

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