Last week I had the good fortune of hearing author Jennie Fields speak at an event my public library organized as part of their Omaha Reads month long celebration of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. You've probably heard of the 'one book, one city' programs lots of cities put on? This year's line up of events has been especially well planned, and the choice of Edith Wharton has been very serendipitous as not only is it the 150th anniversary of her birth, but there have been several novels published this year related to Edith Wharton.
This week British author Francesca Segal spoke and signed copies of her book, The Innocents. Of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet Segal. I was already looking forward to reading her debut novel, but after hearing her speak and discuss her book I'm even more excited. I do have to start first, however, with sharing a few photos of the venue.
Did you know that Omaha has its own castle? The Joslyn Castle was completed in 1903 (the Joslyn family was quite generous and our local art museum also carries the family name), and as you see it was modeled after a Scottish baronial house. What better place than a castle to hold a literary event related to Edith Wharton. It's beautiful outside and in--I had a few moments to spare so sat outside before the reading began and enjoyed the peace and quiet as the house sits back in one of the older neighborhoods of the city.
I'm not sure what this room was originally intended for, but it was a gorgeous and elegant space to hold a reading.
Francesca Segal is a really lovely young woman--articulate and well spoken with a sense of humor. She spoke a bit about her book and read a couple of excerpts from the story. The Innocents, set in a Jewish suburb of London, is about newly engaged Adam Newman who meets his fiancé's beautiful and independent cousin, Ellie. She couldn't be more different than conventional Rachel who he's dated since they were teenagers and always planned and expected to marry. Adam is then faced with the dilemma of doing what's expected or striking out on his own.
Segal notes that The Innocents isn't a straightforward retelling of The Age of Innocence but a recasting of the story using her own preoccupations in forming the story. She used The Age of Innocence as a sort of scaffolding and wove bits of it into her own book, but ultimately her characters have different dilemmas to work through. There are two themes Segal was interested in exploring in The Innocents--how the characters, twenty-somethings, distinguish their own wants and needs from those of their parent's and family's and what makes a good marriage.
An excerpt from The Innocents was published in the June issue of Vogue (you can read an interview with Segal here). It's not been a shabby year for Edith Wharton either. Not only does she continue to inspire new books to be written, she's still much loved and much read, and even iconic Vogue magazine compliments her with an eighteen-page spread!
So, another enjoyable (and bookish) evening. I hope there will be more of them in the future!
And, yes, I had to splurge and buy a copy of The Innocents, which Francesca Segal kindly signed. I'm eager to start reading and I do still plan on picking up something by Edith Wharton. I've tentatively got Ethan Frome on my night table (too bleak for fall reading?) and might even dip into her collection of ghost stories this weekend. So my own Edith Wharton reading continues apace.