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The Emperor's Children Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 29, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Well, it hasn't. I won't argue with anyone's experiences of the book -- that's far beyond what I can offer. I will say that, as a journalist in DC, it's far and away the most accurate examination of the Eastern intellectual class that I've encountered. Messud is a gorgeous writer whose scenes are deeply observed and hauntingly constructed. The world of the book is specific, to be sure, and it's possible, as you see in the reviews, that many won't relate. But if you went to a small liberal arts college; if you're fascinated, or resentful, or appalled, or attracted, by the pretensions of the self-styled intellectual set; if you like sharply written banter; you can hardly do better than this book.
In my opinion, none of the main characters are anywhere near as adorable as the author keeps insisting they are. Their most notable characteristic is a non-stop (and rather interchangeable) flow of campy repartee that might convey intellect, success, pretension, heartbreak, or whatever to someone steeped in their milieu but which kept me at a considerable emotional distance. The doomed idol, Murray Thwaite, in particular is dreadfully flimsy - is this the author's dream of an articulate, handsome, talented, unattainable (for others who wish to be him) Golden Boy. This sort of wish fulfillment at the reader's expense is simply unpalatable to the serious consumer. And, if this was to be a tongue in cheek attempt at humor, it fell far short of the mark.
I agree with other reviewers. It appears the author likes very long sentences; many paragraphs are absolutely incomprehensible. Are we to be impressed with the overuse of commas and dependent clauses so that it often takes two or three readings to render a sentence understandable? If this is the new era of grown-up writing, I'll stick to my mysteries and nonfiction.
But, I kept at it hoping that Messud would indeed pull it off in the end; however, the ending too was quite unsatisfactory. And, the use of the 9/11 tragedy to try to wrap it up is unforgivable. If so many New Yorkers of this age group truly were so wrapped in their own petty self-absorptions during this time period, God save our country. Could any of the characters see outside their own small contrived world? It would appear not. I won't be reading any more of Messud's work.Read more ›
"He remembered his father's telling him - his father, small as he was himself tall, with sloping shoulders off which Murray feared, as a child, the braces might slip, a bow-tied little man with an almost Hitlerian mustache, softened from menace by its grayness, and by the softness, insidious softness, of his quiet voice, a softness that belied his rigidity and tireless industry, his humorless and ultimately charmless 'goodness' (Why had she married him? She'd been so beautiful, and such fun) - telling him, as he deliberated on his path at Harvard, to choose accounting, or economics, saying, with that dreaded certainty, 'You see, Murray, I know you want to go out and write books or something like that. But only geniuses can be writers, Murray, and frankly son ...'"
See what I mean about size? Reviewers have already complained about the author's self-interrupting, drunkenly digressive prose style. They are entirely correct to do so. Claire Messud's book is festooned with sentences which are essentially motorway pile-ups of sub-clauses, codicils and parenthetical interpolations. Such a rookie mistake - which makes for hopelessly cumbersome reading - should never have made it past the editor.
The Emperor's Children concerns the lives of Danielle, Marina and Julius, three thirtysomething New York literati and their patriarch, the essayist Murray Thwaite, Marina's father.Read more ›
I think there are two interrelated groups of central characters in the novel. The first group consists of two people: Murray Thwaite, an aging liberal writer and social critic whose opinions and publications have come to command a nation-wide following. Thwaite's wife is an attorney with a career and life of her own, as she specializes in representing troubled young people. Thwaite has a manuscript in his desk which he hopes to publish someday setting forth in aphoristic form the insights he believes he has won over the years into the good life. Thwaite is also a philanderer and becomes involved, in this book, with a 30 year old woman named Danielle, discussed below. Twaite has a nephew, Frederick "Booty" Tubb who has dropped out of college and who reads writers including Emerson and Robert Musil. Thwaite hires Booty as a private secretary, and Booty betrays this trust by writing a highly uncomplimentary article based upon Twaite's draft and unpublished manuscript and on his observations of Thaite's private life.
The second group of main characters consists of three college friends who are about 30 years of age. Thwaite's daughter Mariana is an aspiring writer who has been struggling for several years to complete a book on children's clothing and its impact on society's view of people. Her friend Danielle is an aspiring producer of documentaries. Their common friend Julius is a free-lance writer who struggles to get by writing reviews. (shades of Amazon reviewing!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For me, the book started off a bit slow, it took a while to get me interested, but once it did, I was totally overtaken. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Angeles
I'm on page 138. I came here for hope to read good reviews. The conclusion is that you either really love it or you really hate it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Karla Goddard
The very humanness of the characters was painful at times. So close to home in spite if the differing circumstances. Read morePublished 2 months ago by john pfautz
Reminds me of a prism, as we view the facets of each character through the various perceptions of the other characters. Spectacular job of writing. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Marialivia
It was a really lame book with completely unlikeable characters.. The last 100 pages were marginally better with some redemption at the end which is why I upgraded this from 1... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Pam Hayes
I loved how the author drew so precisely the characters' interior experiences and their longing for things to feel more like they used to when they were younger. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jig
Honestly I didn't love this book. I thought it was going to be better, especially in light of what it leads up to. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Kellyn
I really liked the writing as well as the story.
It's funny how often I'll rather like a book that scores fairly low among other readers. Read more