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The Darlings: A Novel Hardcover – February 16, 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Probably the most compulsively readable fiction to come out of the Wall Street financial scandal so far, this debut novel by a former Goldman Sachs analyst offers readers plenty of schadenfreude, if only of the imaginary variety. Paul Ross, married to the daughter of billionaire investment manager Carter Darling, has lost his job. The pressure to maintain a Manhattan lifestyle trumps his unease about working for his father-in-law, and he is hired as general counsel. Two months into Carters new post, one of his closest friends, who also runs the fund in which the firm is most heavily invested, takes a header off the Tappan Zee Bridge. Turns out the feds were closing in. Now Paul has to answer for the millions of dollars that have vanished from the fund, which turns out to have been nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. Alger knows the ins and outs of both Wall Street and an upscale NYC lifestyle, nailing all the details, from the plush, hushed atmosphere of high-end law firms to the right tennis togs for a “casual” weekend in the Hamptons. Delicious reading. --Joanne Wilkinson


“Alger, who has worked at Goldman Sachs as well as at a white-shoe law firm, knows her way around 21st-century wealth and power, and she tells a suspenseful, twisty story.”
Wall Street Journal

“What happens to the Darling family in the course of a weekend is what carries this tale along, but it’s Alger’s description of quintessential New Yorkers, and how they survive, that adds the extra layer. . . . Alger has what it takes, in the best sense of the phrase.”
USA Today

“Forget Gossip Girl: If you really want a peek into the scandalous lives of New York City's elite upper class, Alger's debut novel—set during the financial downturn of 2008—gets you pretty close. . . . The Darlings moves so fast that it feels more like a thriller than a social drama.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Penned by a former banker, this is a dishy yet thoughtful portrait of greed gone too far . . . A page-turner.”
Good Housekeeping

“Two parts Too Big to Fail, one part The Devil Wears Prada, Alger’s debut is taut and compelling.”
Publishers Weekly

“Probably the most compulsively readable fiction to come out of the Wall Street financial scandal so far. . . . Alger knows the ins and outs of both Wall Street and an upscale NYC lifestyle, nailing all the details . . . Delicious reading.”

“…A financial thriller with a tone that fits somewhere between the novels of Dominick Dunne . . . and Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities.”
Library Journal

“Cristina Alger is so good, you just know she’s an inside trader—as intimately familiar with the inner workings of Wall Street investment banks as she is with haute Manhattan social life.  She’s also a gifted storyteller.  The Darlings is an utterly compelling novel, as knowing about family as it is about money and social status, and may be the best literary product of the financial crisis to date.”
Jay McInerney, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Life

“For those who have only gazed up at the palatial residences of Manhattan, this is a glimpse from the penthouse down.”
Tom Rachman, New York Times bestselling author of The Imperfectionists

“Cristina Alger’s debut novel offers a fresh and modern glimpse into New York’s high society.  I was hooked from page one.”
Lauren Weisberger, New York Times bestselling author of Last Night at the Chateau Marmont

“A rare, glittering glimpse into Manhattan’s banks, bedrooms, and private clubs, a material and psychological world rendered with extraordinary detail.  A smart, gripping tale . . . complex and mesmerizing.”
Sarah Houghteling, author of Pictures at an Exhibition

“Cristina Alger has written a racing, vivid, multi-vocal chronicle of the new gilded age, with equal shades of Jay McInerney and Bernie Madoff.  Start reading it and in three hundred pages or so you'll feel like a consummate New York insider, too.”
Charles Finch, author of A Burial at Sea

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books; First Edition edition (February 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023271
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,035,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
At a time when the attention of the country is on the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the 99%, Christina Alger's book centers on that elusive 1% -- the truly wealthy. And she does it so well.

It was no surprise for me to read that she had worked as an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and as an attorney at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr. Only a true insider could have written a book as authentic as this one. It's page gripping and authentic, thrilling and gasp-inducing. In short, it's a winner.

The family that is about to be thrust into a Bernie Madoff-type storm is the Darlings: Carter Darling, the CEO of a prestigious hedge fund, his son-in-law Paul who accepts a position as the head of his legal team, his daughter, Merrill, a sharp attorney in her own right who is married to Paul, and several other well-drawn characters.

When a tragic event occurs in the opening pages, the Darlings are suddenly thrust into the middle of a red-hot scandal and a regulatory investigation, with the SEC and the media breathing down its neck. Paul - who deep down is a good guy - will soon be asked to choose between saving his own hide and protecting the family. It's all part of the dog-eat-dog world of the financial world gone haywire...a time when trips to Aspen are being cancelled, summer homes are on the market, and jobs are going the way of the dinosaur.

Christina Alger does not take the easy way out. The financial world is complicated and she refuses to dumb it down...which is not to say the book is inaccessible. You don't need to know much about finances to "get it." She casts her net expertly, demonstrating the interactions between the private fund, the fund-of-funds, the SEC, the press, the prosecutors and the highest echelons of New York society.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I buy books that I am unsure I really want to spend the money on I generally read the reviews as they seem ,at least for my reading needs, to be a pretty good indicator of value. I did that when I bought this book. I think it had only 5 star reviews at the time of purchase & there were 5 or so of these reviews. I purchased it that night. I enjoyed the 1st half of the book-all it really was was the Bernie Madoff story, with another family playing the Madoffs, revisited...but I thought it was a pretty good read. The second half, at least for me, was somewhat tedious. When I finished I went back to the rave reviews to see what other books these 5 star reviewers had reviewed...& SURPRISE, SURPRISE, they all had reviewed no other book than this one. Its nice to have good friends to jump start a writing career, but to me it now means that it might better, when looking for a book, to take that one more step & see what else the reviewer has reviewed. This is what happens with ebooks...3 or so better than great reviews from friends with no other reviews. Nothing wrong with that but it really makes the term "buyer beware" have some real meaning.

What I would say to someone deciding whether to purchase this book would be to go to their library or wait til the paperback comes out as I don't think its worth the $15 it cost on Amazon.
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Format: Hardcover
Note: One reader though there were spoilers here; I don't think I said anything spoilerrific, but just be forewarned.

Normally, I probably would not have picked this up, despite the lovely cover. When offered a review copy from Penguin, I figured why not, since I can be a bit narrow in my reading tastes these days (YA, YA, YA). Yet again, I am glad I did. The Darlings was a good read, even for one such as myself, who does not follow anything about the economy (more than my own bank account anyway).

The entirety of the story, with the exception of the epilogue, takes place within just one week. I love that Alger set it up this way, because it really drove home how quickly a situation can devolve to a snafu. On Monday, everything was good, and in a matter of days two companies were pretty much destroyed (or likely to be so).

Also, I want to give Alger props for managing to write sympathetic characters. I was definitely out to hate everyone in this book, because I can likely never (realistically) dream of having as much money as these guys would still have if the company bit it. I know life's not fair, but that does not mean I have to like it.

Actually, pretty much every character in here was at least a little bit likable. Certainly, by the end, there were some folks I was not a huge fan of, but I didn't hate anyone entirely (except maybe for Jane, who didn't get much screen time). I couldn't hate Carter because of how much he cared for his family, and because he apparently resembles Cary Grant. My favorite characters were definitely Paul and Merrill, who seem least messed up by the world they're living in. I would also really like to find out what happened to Marina.

The Darlings is a well-written story set in the economic landscape of post-9/11 New York City. Expect love, betrayal, and plot twists. Enjoy!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Grade: D+

L/C Ratio: 40/60
(This means I estimate the author devoted 40% of her effort to creating a literary work of art and 60% of her effort to creating a commercial bestseller.)

Thematic Breakdown:
40% - Wall Street corruption
30% - Family crisis
10% - New York high society
10% - Legal dealings
10% - Journalism

Perhaps Alger was setting herself up to fail when she decided to write a literary novel from the perspective of the Wall Street elite during the Great Recession. But what makes the characters in The Darlings hard to relate to is not that they are rich snobs - it's that they are boring rich snobs.

Alger literally jumps between a dozen different point of views in the book, and even though these stories all overlap, they never successfully mesh together into a steady plot. Also, no character ever emerges as the lead hero or lead villain, which leads the reader to feel an overall indifference to the entire cast. The author interrupts every chapter with details about each character's past, but these anecdotes come off as more of a contrived exercise than true character development.

Even a big twist in the conclusion can't save The Darlings, because long before then, the story loses the potential to captivate its readers.

Noteworthy Quote:

"To be jealous of money is uninspired," Eleanor would say with a dismissive wave of the hand. "You can only be jealous of someone who has something that you can never have. More style, for example, or wit. Money is easily earned."
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