The Emperor’s Children (book review)

From The Movie Snob

The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud (2006). For the most part — right up until the end — I really enjoyed this novel. The central characters are three thirty-year-old New Yorkers, old friends from their college days at Brown. Members of the privileged class, they all believe themselves destined to do great things, but none has the appetite for hard work that greatness generally entails. Marina, beautiful and spoiled, is forever working on a pretentious book that she will probably never finish. Julius, a gay freelance writer of reviews, yearns for domesticity but sabotages it when he finds it. Danielle, the most grounded of the three, actually has a steady job working on documentaries but then embarks on an affair with a married man. Presiding over all the proceedings (like an emperor) is Marina’s father, Murray Thwaite, a celebrity journalist and author who is a little like a liberal version of William F. Buckley. Most of the pleasure of the book comes from these four well-sketched characters, who are believable if not particularly likeable. The other characters are not as well done, and as the book goes on it becomes clear that the story will end on or around the events of 9/11. The use of that milestone falls a little flat. But I enjoyed the book a lot along the way.


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