Thursday, April 05, 2007

THE EMPEROR'S CHILDREN by Claire Messud (2006)

Set in NYC in 2001 the novel follows three friends and their hangers-on throughout the summer and early fall. Things fall apart, the centre does not hold and mere anarchy is loosed upon their worlds, to bastardize W.B. Yeats. It's a little like a soap opera for a literary palate.

One t.v.-producing girlfriend is having an affair with her best friend's father, a famous writer. Another is a gay freelancer who pays the bills by temping and bedding his handsome boss who wears bespoke suits. An indulged Bryn Mawr princess who has never held a job in her life, moves back in with her parents in their lavish apartment overlooking the Park and then falls for an Australia anarchist who has great designs on conquering New York with his brilliantly conceived satirical magazine.

Add the loner, university dropout nephew who stirs every pot and leaves the extended circle of friends and relatives with their perplexed heads swivelling from side to side, and you've got Messud's version of modern society. Over indulged and over indulging. Though disappointed with the ending, up until the denouement, I didn't want to put this book down.

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