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The Embezzler Paperback – Large Print, May 1, 2010
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About the Author
Louis Auchincloss is an American novelist. He may well be the most prolific chronicler of the New York upper classes, a novelist of manners and morals in the tradition of Edith Wharton. Among his many works are Last of the Old Guard, The Headmaster’s Dilemma, and East Side Story. He is also the literary executor of the late Walter Lippmann.
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Top Customer Reviews
However, Embezzler is also a study in the tension between honor of the old-time variety, loyalty, and gratitude (or the lack of those).
Prime, member of a poor-relations line of wealth meets Rex Geer, a minister's son with a promising future, struggling through Harvard early in the century. Geer is on the brink of needing to drop out of school. Prime, before they become friends, sympathizes enough to visit a key authority and arrange for Geer to continue his education. He brings Geer to his home many times for summer stays, to the dismay of his family and societal equals, introducing him to the people who eventually give Geer the openings necessary to his future.
Late in his life and many years after his Wall Street disgrace and prison, Prime observes, "today I'd be snubbed by Rex Geer who'd probably be a haberdasher in Jersey City if it weren't for me".
Thanks to interventions in his life by Prime and thanks also to Geer's own talent and initiative, Geer becomes one of the most financially powerful men of the time.
Midway through the depression and at the peak of his career Prime secures loans against his sinking fortunes, using a foundation's resources he's responsible for illegally to stay afloat. As the stocks creep further downward he finds himself on the brink of discovery. He goes to Geer (who's meanwhile having a long-term affair with Prime's wife)in hopes of a loan.Read more ›
Like all of Auchincloss' novels, this one concerns New York high society and the three major characters are in some sense defined by it: Guy, the embezzler of the title, comes from the edge of society, but wants to be at the center. He is charming, charming, good with people, witty, pretty (when he was young). He idealizes everything, and Auchincloss shows you just how dangerous that can be.
Rex, Guy's best friend, comes from a New Hampshire minister's family. He's a puritan: honest, direct, upright, smart, meticulous--and bursting with unexpressed passion. Sort of a combination of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth together, if that's possible. Rex and Guy prove that opposites attract.
The third vertex of the triangle is Angelina. She's less defined that the other two. She was a bratty teenager under the domination of her parents who escaped with Guy into marriage, becoming for many years his sex-slave. She becomes independent and ironic later and has a brief affair with Rex that might have triggered Guy's embezzling.
This really is a character study. It doesn't have a plot in the normal sense, but is organized into three periods: Before, During and After the Embezzlement era. The After part gets the least attention, I wouldn't say the novel is leading up to any obvious sort of climax. It's all about the development of personalities, and Auchincloss is very good at that task.
Mr. Auchincloss has an elegant writing style I enjoy, using a sentence structure that sometimes makes me pause to re-read, to make sure I've understood his meaning correctly.
This is a good read. The topics covered - Wall Street, intrigue, love, deceit, manipulation - remain timely.
If I were going to quibble, it would be on behalf of the character, Lucy (Rex's wife). Although she was intellectually and emotionally strong, intelligent, insightful, and loving, the author really did her wrong by allowing the main characters to universally dismiss her as "poor creature."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I truly enjoyed this novel. It's an intriguing story told from multiple perspectives thatnever drags. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Laura
Auchincloss the critic (a modest one) is worth reading, but his plethora of novels should be ignored, this one being a good example of why. Read morePublished 22 months ago by reading man
This book, written nearly 50 years ago, is not really about the intrigues of an embezzler (based on the indicted and imprisoned Wall Street WASP Richard Whitney -- circa 30s). Read morePublished on January 26, 2014 by GT500
I'd never read anything by Auchincloss before, and I was impressed by this. The book is loosely based on Richard Whitney, and told from three people's point of view.Published on September 6, 2013 by David Schiff
Louis Auchincloss is simply a wonderful writer. He captures the personalities and the times they live in. Read morePublished on February 2, 2013 by christopher j. rohrs
Recommended by Newsweek magazine, this book was picked for one of my book clubs. I almost put it down at least 10 times and only skimmed through the last half of the book because... Read morePublished on August 18, 2012 by Candy
Good look into the lifestyle and ethics of the golden age. While the times are antiquated, the story is eternal! Some things never change. Good read.Published on May 12, 2012 by J. McMillan