Monday, May 12, 2014

The Emperor's Children (by Claire Messud)

One of my "to-read pile" books; my book club read this ages ago and I believe they generally really enjoyed it, and it has come up at subsequent meetings to the point that I felt I'd missed out. I decided to make this my airplane read on a recent trip to Ohio, and got very engrossed in it. The characters are by and large unsympathetic, but somehow also sympathetic. It reminded me--in its New York setting, dealing with terrorism, the rich family taking in the poor relation--very strongly of The Goldfinch, only I liked it better. The changing points of view worked really well for me, the short chapters, the time jumps, the plot twists, the general aesthetic. Really enjoyable.

My one criticism was with the ending--not only did I not want it to end (I wish it had been as long as The Goldfinch) but I didn't get resolution on the one plotline I was most interested in, which was [spoiler] Marina's. I found Bootie's plotline the least interesting to me--actually not the least interesting, but once we find out vaguely what happened to him, I didn't need the overly pat, overly coincidental resolution there. I would rather have learned more about the fate of any of the other characters. [/spoiler]. But to me, that's nitpicky--I really enjoyed this a lot, I found it engrossing and well-written, and I would say it's of a piece with The Interestings, The Goldfinch, and Freedom, but honestly better than any of those.

[I just checked the Amazon reviews, and the star average is shockingly middling. People are complaining about unwieldy sentence construction. This is ironic to me considering that I set aside The Wings of the Dove for this novel because I figured it was a better airplane read. So I had no issues at all with the discursive sentences, but this could be because of preceding it immediately with Henry James? Now I'm not sure. At any rate, I love Henry James and his discursive sentences, and Messud's were not an issue with me at all.]



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought this and started it years ago, but never finished it. Perhaps I'll pick it up again!

11:35 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I've heard rapturous praise (from folks I trust) about her latest book, "The Woman Upstairs," as well.

1:09 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

I will add "Woman Upstairs" to my list. And Laura, sometimes it takes me a couple of false starts to get into something--maybe give it another shot and let me know what you thought. :)

10:33 PM  

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