*** Winner of the 2012 Costa First Novel Award ***
*** Winner of the 2013 Harold U. Ribalow Prize, the 2013 Sam Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the 2012 Costa First Novel Award, and the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction ***
A smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment; a triumphant and beautifully executed recasting of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence.
Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community--a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam's role in a warm, inclusive family he loves.
But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel's younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he'd care to admit. Ellie--beautiful, vulnerable, and fiercely independent--offers a liberation that he hadn't known existed: a freedom from the loving interference and frustrating parochialism of North West London. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?
Segal s debut novel is an example of how one can be influenced by great writers who ve come before yet not be trapped by them. Nice, reliable Adam is engaged to Rachel, the perfect Jewish girl, in a closely knit North West London Jewish community. But Rachel s free-spirited cousin Ellie, back from a scandalous time in the U.S., makes him feel not so nice and not so reliable. He falls for Ellie, but the machinations of both his fianc e and his community create obstacles to his desires. Inspired by The Age of Innocence, Segal s book is warmer, funnier, and paints a more dynamic and human portrait of a functional community that is a wonderful juxtaposition to Wharton s cold social strata in Gilded Age New York. Adam is just as much of a coward as Newland Archer, more in love with the idea of rebellion than actually capable of committing the act. Rachel echoes May Welland s passive aggressiveness, yet goes after what she wants with more courage when faced with tough choices. Ellie is far more self-aware and less of a victim than Ellen Olenska, which makes her more interesting and sympathetic. The real hero of the book is Lawrence, Adam s father-in-law, a man who deeply loves his family, appreciates the community, utilizes his quiet faith, and is profoundly grateful for his life. The book is full of delightful moments, such as Lawrence s comment, Any Jewish holiday can be described the same way. They tried to kill us. They failed. Let s eat. Segal took the theme of a well-known novel and made it her own. Lively and entertaining.