Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Breakthrough Jew – Francesca Segal

Segal is the author of the award-winning and critically acclaimed debut novel ‘The Innocents’

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: June 12th, 2014 in Culture » Books » News

Hot, hip, and heady, the next wave of Jewish artists and influencers has already arrived. This is Breakthrough Jew, your weekly showcase of those on the verge of discovery and ready to be a regular figure in pop culture; setting trends, redefining genres, and simply getting it done-whatever ‘it’ is. These days, it’s not enough to know what’s hot now; you need to catch someone when they’re just starting to simmer.

Featuring those in film, fashion, food, and beyond, we’ll find the story before substance is obscured by style, before hype meets backlash, and before talent and purpose gets lost in a maze of Internet chatter. See an artist in the cozy bar before they hit the amphitheater, dine at a chef’s new restaurant before the line begins, and catch a young writer’s work before the demands of ratings and longevity encroach.

Follow our lead and we’ll follow yours – send us tips or suggestions via email, comment below or tweet us @ShalomLife, as we explore the Jewish landscape for pop culture pioneers.

Name: Francesca Segal

Age: 33

Hometown: London, England

Breakthrough Cred: Wrote the award-winning, critically acclaimed debut novel, ‘The Innocents’.

From a very tender age, Francesca Segal was enamored with words. By six years of age, she would give the stories she had written to her father, so he in turn, could hand them over to his publishers. Francesca’s father just so happened to be Erich Segal, author of Love Story, undeniably one of he most popular novels of the latter 20th century.

“My father being famous? I had absolutely no idea about that. But his being a writer was important to me because I was a nice Jewish girl who worshipped her daddy. I wanted to do what he did. When he read me bedtime stories it would often be poems for adults but with cadences and language that children would enjoy. My father was a classicist and that, even more than the fact that he wrote novels, informed the atmosphere in our house. Etymology was for him important enough that he would leave the dinner table to find something, read it and explain it,” Segal explained The Jewish Chronicle in 2013.

After studying at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, Segal began a career as a journalist, writing for such publications as The Guardian, Granta, Vogue UK, and Newsweek to name a few. For three years, she was the Debut Fiction columnist for The Observer. However, Segal always aspired to write a novel – it was merely a matter of conceiving the perfect idea for a book.

“I was in New York re-reading Wharton. There’s that opening scene in The Age of Innocence where they are at the Academy of Music. Faust is playing and the most adored soprano of the day is reaching this climactic aria. Yet no one is remotely interested in her — they are just interested in one another, what they are wearing, who is sleeping with whom and what is going on. It just so reminded me of what happened at synagogue during the chagim. When that thought came into my head I just had to do it. I saw that all the central dilemmas and pressures in Wharton’s novel were the same as those in the Jewish community and I had questions of my own which I could also work in. I kept the skeleton of the plot but I didn’t want to write a facsimile. I wanted it to be a live contemporary novel. I put The Age of Innocence away and didn’t read it again until my book was finished,” she said.

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