Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Q&A with novelist Francesca Segal

Francesca Segal
Francesca Segal is the author of the award-winning first novel The Innocents, an updating of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence that takes place in Northwest London's Jewish community.

Q: Why did you decide to model your book on Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence?

A: It found me -- I certainly never intended to use the scaffolding of a classic novel for anything of my own. But when I read it there was just something so intensely familiar, and once the idea had occurred to me it was impossible to dislodge. There were questions explored in the Wharton that still felt immediate, and relevant, within the contemporary community I describe. 

Q: Why did you pick the Jewish community of Northwest London as the setting for The Innocents? What about that community is similar to the New York that Edith Wharton describes?

A: As I said, the parallels just felt immediate, the more I read. Which is odd, because Gilded Age New York has very little, on paper, in common with 21st century Jewish north west London! But there is something I recognised in the social climate.

Q: Do you have a favorite among the characters that you created?

A: Well, one ought not to have favourites, it should be like children. But I am very fond of Ziva. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm beginning the second novel, with great pleasure, which is put on hold quite frequently for the very lovely interruption of events and lectures about this book. But I am very much, in my head, in the world of the new book. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Erm - not sure! I'm still reeling from the news, yesterday, that I won the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction -- I suppose that is relevant to an American reader, although I can't yet quite believe it's true!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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