Synopses & Reviews
From a writer "of near-miraculous perfection" (The New York Times Book Review
) and "a literary intelligence far surpassing most other writers of her generation" (San Francisco Chronicle
), The Emperor's Children
is a dazzling, masterful novel about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way and not in New York City.
There is beautiful, sophisticated Marina Thwaite an "It" girl finishing her first book; the daughter of Murray Thwaite, celebrated intellectual and journalist and her two closest friends from Brown, Danielle, a quietly appealing television producer, and Julius, a cash-strapped freelance critic. The delicious complications that arise among them become dangerous when Murray's nephew, Frederick "Bootie" Tubb, an idealistic college dropout determined to make his mark, comes to town. As the skies darken, it is Bootie's unexpected decisions and their stunning, heartbreaking outcome that will change each of their lives forever.
A richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune of innocence and experience, seduction and self-invention; of ambition, including literary ambition; of glamour, disaster, and promise The Emperor's Children is a tour de force that brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.
"Marina Thwaite, Danielle Minkoff and Julian Clarke were buddies at Brown, certain that they would soon do something important in the world. But as all near 30, Danielle is struggling as a TV documentary maker, and Julius is barely surviving financially as a freelance critic. Marina, the startlingly beautiful daughter of celebrated social activist, journalist and hob-nobber Murray Thwaite, is living with her parents on the Upper West Side, unable to finish her book titled The Emperor's Children Have No Clothes (on how changing fashions in children's clothes mirror changes in society). Two arrivals upset the group stasis: Ludovic, a fiercely ambitious Aussie who woos Marina to gain entrée into society (meanwhile planning to destroy Murray's reputation), and Murray's nephew, Frederick 'Bootie' Tubb, an immature, idealistic college dropout and autodidact who is determined to live the life of a New York intellectual. The group orbits around the post-September 11 city with disconcerting entitlement and around Murray, who is, in a sense, the emperor. Messud, in her fourth novel, remains wickedly observant of pretensions intellectual, sexual, class and gender. Her writing is so fluid, and her plot so cleverly constructed, that events seem inevitable, yet the narrative is ultimately surprising and masterful as a contemporary comedy of manners." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Messud deftly paints the neurotic uncertainties of people who know they're privileged and feel sorry for themselves anyway; she makes her characters human....Intelligent, evocative and unsparing." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Messud's comedy of manners is extremely well written and features characters that come alive....This wonderful read is an insightful look at our time and the decisions people make. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Messud's ambitious, glamorous, and gutsy new novel, The Emperor's Children, is a leap forward, a marvel of bold momentum and kinetic imagination." Elle
"Claire Messud is a novelist of unnerving talent....The Emperor's Children is a masterly comedy of manners an astute and poignant evocation of hobnobbing glitterati in the months before and immediately following Sept. 11." Meghan O'Rourke, The New York Times Book Review
"Absorbingly intelligent....[Messud] writing is so sure-handed that she doesn't even stumble on the hurdle of the Sept. 11 attacks...and her exploration of entitlement is both witty and astute." Christian Science Monitor
"Ms. Messud has composed a comedy of manners, a satire on journalism and misplaced ambition, and a probing, sometimes poignant, drama about confused urban lives." Wall Street Journal
"The novel surprises in so many ways. Most notably is the way that the story gets more and more interesting as it progresses. By the final chapters it becomes a page-turner, something rarely found in novels without detectives or CIA agents lurking about." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"If occasionally the reader feels suffocated inside the Thwaites' privileged bubble, the pleasures of Messud's prose are enlivening....You will not learn how to live from reading The Emperor's Children, but you will recognize the pulse of real life on every page." Newsday
"[T]he novel, for all its evident flaws...demonstrates Ms. Messud's growing range as a writer, her ability to shift gears effortlessly between the comic and the tragic, the satiric and the humane." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[A] riveting comedy of manners....Gradually, Messud...converts academic hairsplitting into a matter of larger consequence, extracting considerable suspense from the young cultural pretenders' attempts to topple the old guard and wrest an erotic prize." Elizabeth Judd, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review
About the Author
Claire Messud's first novel, When the World Was Steady, and her book of novellas, The Hunters, were finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; her second novel, The Last Life, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and an Editor's Choice at The Village Voice. All three books were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Fellowship, and is the current recipient of the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.