From Publishers Weekly
Private papers left by the dead may present difficult problems for the survivor, Auchincloss writes in his latest chronicle of the WASP wealthy, and they do for Adrian Suydam, an American gentleman of the old school, who sets about writing the biography of his deceased corporate law partner, Ernest Saunders. It's 1944, and grand old New York is in its full glory as Adrian digs into Ernest's past (and, by virtue of their close relationship, his own), touching on muffled scandals that could threaten the old order of the wellborn and highly educated. The tone is cool and reserved as Adrian examines how Ernest's passionate devotion to the firm—founded in 1883—precludes him from finding true love and how his colleague foresees the loss of the homogeneity, the esprit de corps, the intimacy that the changing conditions of modern law practice presage. The law partners' friendship constitutes a classic fraternal love story, and Auchincloss, for all his narrative stuffiness, effortlessly conjures a bygone world of privilege. (Dec.)
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Citing his subject matter—Old New York—as well as his plot and well-drawn characters, the San Antonio Express-News
dubbed Auchincloss a "latter-day Edith Wharton with a male sensibility." Auchincloss tenderly examines the relationships between his characters—husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees—in an elegantly formal style reminiscent of that bygone era. Though some critics complained that the confessional letters and memos making up long stretches of the novel are too homogeneous and sometimes strain credulity, the Rocky Mountain News
declared that the juicy details they divulge are worth the suspension of disbelief. Even though the novel contained some timely commentary on corporate greed, other critics searched for a larger message. Still, Old Guard
is a "graceful period piece" (Entertainment Weekly
) in the vein of Wharton and John Galsworthy.
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