Summary and book reviews of The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud

The Emperor's Children

by Claire Messud

The Emperor's Children
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 496 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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.

Our Chef Is Very Famous in London

Darlings! Welcome! And you must be Danielle?” Sleek and small, her wide eyes rendered enormous by kohl, Lucy Leverett, in spite of her resemblance to a baby seal, rasped impressively. Her dangling fan earrings clanked at her neck as she leaned in to kiss each of them, Danielle too, and although she held her cigarette, in its mother-of-pearl holder, at arm’s length, its smoke wafted between them and brought tears to Danielle’s eyes.

Danielle didn’t wipe them, for fear of disturbing her makeup. Having spent half an hour putting on her face in front of the grainy mirror of Moira and John’s bathroom, ogling her imperfections and applying vigorous remedial spackle—beneath which her weary, olive-shaped eyes were pouched by bluish bags, the curves of her nostrils oddly red, and her high forehead peeling—she had no intention of revealing to strangers the disintegration beneath her paint.

“...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
ABOUT THIS GUIDE

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are meant to enliven your group’s discussion of The Emperor’s Children, Claire Messud’s richly plotted, densely populated comedy of manners and ideas. Like some of its high-profile antecedents, it’s set in New York City: not the august, whalebone-corseted New York of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence nor the brainy, feuding city of Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift, but New York at the turn of the 21st century, when restaurants have taken the place of museums–and maybe even churches–and every new magazine launch is billed as the opening salvo of a revolution. It’...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A well written comedy of manners that successfully skewers a particular strata of New York literary life.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (488 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.

Booklist

A stinging portrait of life among Manhattan's junior glitterati

Kirkus Reviews

A stinging portrait of life among Manhattan's junior glitterati....intelligent, evocative and unsparing.

Library Journal

The reader will be tugged in many directions as these characters' lives intersect in the realms of love, family, friendship, and tragedy.

Elle

Messud’s ambitious, glamorous, and gutsy new novel, The Emperor’s Children, is a leap forward, a marvel of bold momentum and kinetic imagination.

Atlantic Monthly

Riveting . . . . A cheeky exposé of the pundit class in all its privileged splendor. .....Messud extracts considerable suspense from the young cultural pretenders’ attempts to topple the old guard . . . . An excellent read.

Reader Reviews

rachelwf

overrated & slooooowwwwww
I really tried with this book. It had a very interesting plot & characters but the writer dragged sooo much with her writing, that I put it down less than a 1/3rd through. I know it's been reviewed as a real prize, but I could not finish it.

Bookworm

Too wordy
I also really tried with this book. The plot seemed interesting, but the writing was soooo wordy. Sentences seemed to drag on down the page. I had to reread sentences often. I only got through about a fourth of the book and gave up.

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Beyond the Book

When asked what The Emperor's Children is about Claire Messud replies.... "That's a big question. I don't think I have a simple answer. What's it about? I hope it's about what it's like to be alive in a certain place in a certain time. It's about a group of people with certain aspirations and expectations and limitations, and the way they contend with what is thrown at them. Probably in my mind it's about ambition, and what it means, or meant, and didn't, in that particular historical moment. And about confronting limitations. And about making a self. All those things. As for where the...

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