Adam Newman belongs to a strong and vibrant community of Jewish Londoners. His fiancée, Rachel Gilbert, and her large family have considered him one of their own for years. And as a junior member of his future father-in-law’s law firm, he’s entwined himself inextricably with the people among whom he has grown up. But it isn’t until one of Rachel’s cousins, the enigmatic and atypical Ellie Schneider, returns to London from New York, with the wake of a scandal at her heels, that Adam realizes just how inextricable his ties to the community really are.
At first put off by Ellie’s worldliness, Adam gradually comes to see Ellie, Rachel’s polar opposite, as a product of both her past and difficult present. He also comes to see her as a woman fully aware of her actions and their implications, but without regret – something that Adam finds both mystifying and compelling. His conversations with his fiancée’s cousin reveal her to be a woman better educated, more self-aware, and more complex than he ever realized. He also finds that he’s drawn to her intensely, and that perhaps his future life with Rachel is not the future he wants after all.
A modern-day recasting of Edith Wharton’s seminal novel The Age of Innocence, Francesca Segal’s The Innocents explores our intense and personal connections to family and community; the simultaneous dangers and protections of existence within such a community; and the seductive powers of experience beyond our own. Segal’s rich and evocative depiction of a contemporary London community reveals its strong parallels to late nineteenth-century New York, while her protagonist, Adam Newman, diverts from Wharton’s characters in important and enlightening ways.