Thursday 1 May 2014
'The Innocents' by Francesca Segal was apparently long listed for the Women's Fiction Prize, and to be honest it surprised me to discover this. The two women in Adam's life, Rachel and Ellie, are, in my humble opinion, rather tired clichés; long term girlfriend Rachel is the naive, demure innocent who longs for the perfect wedding, while her cousin Ellie is the wild child with a troubled past, who's arrival on the scene in the run up to the wedding throws the poor man into a turmoil about what kind of woman he really wants. I did not warm to anyone in the book really, except maybe the grandma. While it purports to be a novel about Adam and his tussle with his conscience I actually found it to be more about the negative side of a close community. How do you make choices about your future when so many other people have such overwhelming expectations about your behaviour and your life. It's not just the immediate families that Adam knows is watching, and judging him, but the entire community. Should he marry Rachel, as he has promised, to keep everyone happy, because it is the 'right thing to do'? Would she really want to be married to someone who's choice was made on that basis? I found the whole thing rather screwed up. The huge sense of belonging that their community provides is balanced by this sense of having your life dictated by other people's expectations, and knowing that if you don't live up to them then you risk being cast out. I found this aspect of the story far more interesting than the supposed suppressed passion between Adam and Ellie. All in all I stuck with it to see where she took the idea, and was very disappointed with the unsatisfactory ending.