Feature

The Emperor’s Children

A relative intrudes on a spoiled, apathetic family shortly before 9/11.

Danielle, Marina, and Julius have wanted to matter ever since they graduated from Brown University. But all three friends are 30 now, and all they have to show for their eight years in New York is one demeaning TV production job, one freelance gig with The Village Voice's art pages, and one contract for a nonfiction book that sometimes doesn't seem worth writing anymore. Marina's father embodies the life they once dreamed of. A crusading journalist since the 1960s, Murray Thwaite has earned his groupies and his luxurious Central Park West apartment. But he has also earned a comedown, and when a chubby, autodidactic nephew from the sticks arrives looking for a place to stay and a star to follow, Thwaite and his self-absorbed offspring are rocked by the unexpected intrusion of the young man's idealism.

'œYes, a great deal is going on' in Claire Messud's 'œextraordinary' new novel, said Merle Rubin in The Wall Street Journal. The characters are all, or mostly, privileged New Yorkers living in that bygone era of pre-9/11 2001. But Messud has written a modern comedy of manners that has more than surface satire in mind. She makes her characters' fates seem 'œsuspensefully uncertain and, by the end, morally illuminating and surprising.' There are times, to be sure, when a reader 'œwishes that Messud would go deeper' with some of the overgrown adolescents in her delightful menagerie, said Katie Roiphe in Slate.com. But to plumb the depths of every one of her characters, Messud would have had to sacrifice some of the 'œspeed and lightness' that make The Emperor's Children one of the rare books that can truly be called 'œa literary page-turner.'

The New York Times

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