From Publishers Weekly
Venerated author Auchincloss serves up solid tales but few surprises in his 60th novel of upper-crust New York life. When retired nurse Loulou Carnochan begins to compile the history of the Carnochan clan in the 1960s, she admits that she is "planning a species of novel with what was at best a collection of short stories," and indeed, the book has the feeling of a collection of family anecdotes. Scottish thread merchant David emigrated to the United States in the 1830s; Eliza, the wife of David's eldest son, secretly loves David's youngest, a Civil War hero; Bruce, a son of Eliza's, chooses security over romance in marriage; Gordon and David, two cousins of the succeeding generation, play out a dynamic of power and idealism that will be repeated in their sons' generation. Occasionally, every Carnochan seems to be hiding either a thwarted romanticism or an amoral cynicism under a layer of respectable Christian business sense. However, the author knows a thousand variations on his theme of social hypocrisy, and he's at his best when he allows his characters to complicate their two-dimensional roles; it is these moments that justify his reputation as a pre-eminent chronicler of American life.
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Auchincloss's sixtieth book is a novel of power and hypocrisy in upper-class New York that, like much of his previous fiction, focusses on the agonizing conflict between America's proudly Protestant face and its tawdry capitalist backside. The book consists of eleven linked portraits chronicling the rise of the fiercely Presbyterian Carnochan family, from Old World Scottish thread merchants in Colonial America to lawyers, bankers, and business tycoons in the modern era. The Carnochan men follow their forebears to Yale and, with a few exceptions, to worldly success. But, dedicated to little more than "their own permanence," they also expose the moral bankruptcy of their class. Auchincloss, who is eighty-seven, and himself something of a Gotham patrician, casts a chilly eye upon the American empire that families like the Carnochans helped to build.
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