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June 25, 2012 | 6:33 p.m. CST
In The Innocents, 28-year-old Adam Newman is recently engaged to Rachel Gilbert. Rachel is what Adam considers perfect: sweet, predictable, honest and curvy. The two have been dating since they were 16 years old, and Rachel’s parents are pleased to hear the engagement news.
Release date: June 5
When Rachel’s New York cousin Ellie comes to town to see her family, the community is far from accepting. Rumored to have starred in a porn film, Ellie is the complete opposite of the other girl in their town. Wearing low-cut blouses and short skirts, Ellie has a seductive, carefree attitude that intoxicates Adam.
Even as Adam tells himself Rachel is the right one for him, he begins to wonder what Ellie’s world outside of London is like. What is he missing? Is he just doing what’s comfortable?
Through the characters and their tightly knit community, Segal shows how similar a 21st century Hampstead Garden suburb can be to 19th century New York. It’s hard for the characters to find excitement when they live with the same people their whole lives and marry within that same community.
In Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, the themes and the characters are very similar to Segal’s. The announcement of Newland Archer and May Welland’s engagement — this time during an opera — has Newland scheming ways to teach May how to become his ideal woman. As in The Innocents, May’s cousin arrives and causes the drooling Newland to question his decisions.
Segal, born in London herself in 1980, grew up living in both the U.K. and America. After attending Harvard University and the University of Oxford, she began her career in writing. Segal’s work has appeared in Granta, The Jewish Chronicle and The Guardian. She is a features writer at Tatler and wrote the Debut Fiction column in The Observer.
Segal keeps a gentle and elegant tone that draws readers in. Jewish tradition and faith affect each character’s decisions throughout the story, yet Segal takes a less serious attitude toward the literature, giving readers some laughs. The book itself starts off slowly but turns into a page-turner once Ellie walks on the scene.