My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Innocents isn’t what I normally read, but I decided to give it a chance, anyway, because I was intrigued by the fact that it’s a reworking of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence set in a Jewish neighborhood of London. (In the interest of full disclosure: I haven’t read the book. I have seen the movie, though, and it’s one of my favorites. I own the book, so it’ll be read at some point…)
Segal did a great job setting up the main conflict of the book: the main character, Adam, has just become engaged to his girlfriend of twelve years (Rachel), but starts to have doubts when her far more interesting cousin (Ellie) comes back to London from the States. The way I read it, Adam starts to have doubts because seeing Ellie makes him realize all of the things he’s missed out on by trying to be the son/brother/boyfriend that everyone expects him to be, and he starts to think about how trapped he’ll be if he does actually marry Rachel – who represents everything that’s starting to chafe him. The stakes if he chooses to turn his back on Rachel are equally clear: he’ll be alienated from his very tight knit community and, more distressingly, from the family who have adopted him as one of their own in the twelve years he’s dated Rachel.
The one part of the book that fell flat for me was Adam himself. I couldn’t really connect to him, so I didn’t really care either way what he decided – I just wanted him to make a decision already. Mostly, my thoughts were along the lines of, Adam, you dummy, you had twelve years to figure all this stuff out and you’re only acting now?
It’s bad news if I find the main character annoying, because that pretty much cancels out everything else I loved about an otherwise great book. Fortunately, the book isn’t even 300 pages long, so I didn’t have to put up with Adam for THAT long.
I do recommend this book, though, if you’re a fan of the original story, or if you like stories about family, of if you’re looking for stories that revolve around Jewish culture.