Welcome to She Said/She Said, where GGC Members are our book reviewers from across Canada sharing their opinions about the book of the month.
This month we take a look at The Innocents by Francesca Segal, published by Harper Collins Canada. Our reviewers rate this book as follows:
This book is suitable for adults aged 18 and older, containing no to very little, profanity, sexual content or mature themes within the context of the story.
She Said: Julie McFayden
The Innocents, by first time novelist Francesca Segal, was an unexpected delight. It was thoroughly enjoyable, beautifully written and difficult to put down once I started. Who knew that I would find so much to relate to in this story about a Jewish boy’s emotional journey into manhood?
The stage is initially set in a synagogue where Adam reflects on his relationship with long-time girlfriend Rachel. It’s here, too, that we’re introduced to the rich slate of characters that make up Adam’s family – immediate and extended and where we begin to understand the demands and expectations of Adams traditional Jewish upbringing.
Adam has dated Rachel since they were teenagers knowing from early on they would eventually wed. When Rachel’s troubled cousin, Ellie, returns to England to visit after a troubled childhood overseas, Adam’s fascination with this dark and mysterious young woman causes him to question the path he has chosen.
While the story is told from a Jewish perspective, the complex relationships and expectations of family and community are universal. Adam’s internal struggle really resonated with me. It put into words the indecision and uncertainty we often feel when faced with life changing decisions, and the impact our actions can have on the people around us.
The Innocents was a thoroughly enjoyable read!
–Julie McFayden lives in Toronto with her husband and three children. Her two daughters have been members of Girl Guides of Canada since 2007.
She Said: Alexis Maartman-Jones
Victoria, British Columbia
The Innocents walks with Adam Newman through a time in his life where his vulnerabilities come to a head. Francesca Segal creates rich scenes of Jewish celebrations, engrossing the reader into the festivities, making them yearn to crawl through the pages into this world.
Each character could easily emulate members of each reader’s own family, regardless of cultural heritage or religious beliefs, giving the book a comfortingly familiar feeling. At odds with this is the tangibility of Adam’s actions, and the impact each action will have on the supporting cast. While readers are forewarned of the nature of Adam’s struggle, Segal allows for so much lead up to his choice, it becomes laborious to read.
Unlike the exhilarating terror of click-clacking up the hill on a roller coaster before the steep drop, the plodding tempo of rising action here is less exhilarating and more cumbersome. Will he or won’t he is never the question. When Segal will feel the urge to divulge it, is.
Are all of Adam’s struggles created from residual grief, insecurities and pain from losing his father at an early age? Can his scrambling for a sense of fulfillment truly blow over in so few words?
The reader need not tap into their willing suspension of disbelief jar.
She Said: Taryn McBride
Former Girl Guide, Clinton, Ontario
The Innocents by Francesca Segal is the story about a young man named Adam and his “perfect” life. Adam has it all, the perfect fiancée Rachel, perfect job, and comfortable social life. Adam never had a reason to question the values and ideals that have been installed in him. His world is turned upside down with the introduction of Rachel’s questionable, line-pushing, and less than traditional cousin Ellie. When Ellie arrives in London, everything Adam had ever known was thrown out the window. Ellie, although thought of the “black sheep” with a more than questionable past, forces Adam to question his own life, and the life altering decisions he has made thus far. Adam is forced out of his comfort zone and begins to view life through a new window, which both terrifies him, and makes for the page turning plot of this story.
The major theme in this book is healthy relationships, or what Adam always thought to be a healthy relationship. What he knew to be in a healthy relationship is based on traditional values. When he begins to question these traditions, he begins to question his most important relationship, the one with innocent, predictable, and all around “good girl,” Rachel, leading to the climax of the novel which pulls at the heartstrings of the reader.
The Innocents is everything you would want in a traditional love story, the love triangle that makes the main character question everything they have ever known; the split between tradition and the unknown. Segal captures this love story beautifully and leaves the reader rooting for Adam to take the leap from tradition into the great unknown. The Innocents is a must read for all those hopeless romantics, who like Adam, are confused and terrified to make the leap.
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