Wednesday 18 December 2013

The Emperor's Children

Claire Messud's book 'The Emperor's Children' was long listed for the Booker back whenever and it certainly tackles many issues surrounding social whatnots in modern affluent America. The twists and turns of the plot kept me listening through the 16 tapes (the library still has some books on tape though I believe they are being phased out) almost because rather than in spite of the fact none of the characters are very likeable. Marina, Danielle and Julius, despite their expensive education and their privileged backgrounds are struggling to make their mark on the world. Danielle is briefly smitten by Ludovick Seeley, a magazine editor, but he is naturally more taken with her beautiful friend Marina. Julius falls for his handsome (and rich) boss and they seem to quickly form an intense though somewhat superficial relationship, that just as rapidly unravels when Julius' proclivity for casual sex gets the better of him. Danielle is then seduced by Murray, Marina's father, a much respected writer and intellectual; apparently a regular occurrence for him, giving in to self indulgence and self-gratification that his wife turns a blind eye to, while she thinks she has found her soul mate. Crashing into their lives comes firstly cousin Booty, escaping shallow formal education for the inspiration of his idol Uncle Murray, an idealism that is soon to be shattered, and secondly the events of September 11th 2001. While not specifically, I felt, a novel about the effects of the attacks it is obviously something that has impacted greatly on the way American's view themselves and their society, but I don't really feel qualified to comment on what that impact is. I felt that for the characters in the story it was all still very personal, rather than political, how it affected their individual lives, it didn't seem to cause any of them to look or think outside their own narrow concerns. That's all really, she seems to be much admired for her astute social observations and analysis but I found the people shallow and on occasion their behaviour was a trifle clich├ęd. While I found the story engaging and the characters believable I don't think I cared enough about any of them. Shrug and move on to better things.

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