Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 book 114

Francesca Segal's The Innocents
It's pretty ballsy to rework a literary classic, let alone set your reworking of Age of Innocence in the insular London Jewish community. So I figured this had to be pretty great, or extremely terrible. I should say at this point that regarding the original novel, I'm in the minority in not seeing it as a tragic love story, but as a book about two complete jerkwads. Seriously. Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska suck. Team May! (Age of Innocence is still a great book.) Clearly I went into this prepared to be horrified, or at least annoyed. But Segal's writing is strong--occasionally heavy-handed, but she does a great job of evoking the nature of a Jewish community (and its many food-filled parties)--and her Ellie is slightly more sympathetic than the original. Her Adam is even more of a wishy-washy jerk than Archer was, though, and her Rachel is even more of a non-entity than May. I didn't think the GREAT LOVE between Adam and Ellie felt at all realistic or natural, which is a bigger problem (it happens more organically with Wharton). None of that is to say the book is bad--it's completely impossible to judge on its own merits, after all. But I'm never going to feel for a guy who's engaged to a woman who makes him happy, and then decides to cheat on her with her cousin, no matter how great the writing is. And it's just pretty solid here. B/B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in June.

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