In The Emperor's Children, a grand comedy of manners, He-With-No-Clothes is Murray Thwaite, a famous liberal journalist and pundit whose reputation is based on moral integrity. Although the blurb suggests it is about three friends on the cusp of their thirties, I found that this novel revolves around him. One of the friends is his beautiful daughter Marina; the other two are her college friends from Brown. Much like Ian McEwan's writing, it focuses on the flaws of well fleshed-out characters, but a rotating set consisting of perhaps too many, leading to some loose ends. I found myself admiring Claire Messud's craft, manipulating ideas and language, but found myself aware of it, and not caring too much about the characters as people. Nonetheless, it was a well-constructed novel set in New York which I read through rather quickly.
From The New Yorker
In this witty examination of New York's chattering classes, which opens in the spring of 2001, the despot of the title is Murray Thwaite, a famous journalist who made his name in the Vietnam era. The next generation, however, is having trouble gaining traction. Murray's daughter, Marina, unable to complete a long-overdue book on the cultural significance of children's clothing, has moved back into her parents' Upper West Side apartment and is doing a lot of yoga. Her two best friends—Danielle, a television producer, and Julius, a gay freelance critic—are similarly ambitious and entitled, without being particularly driven. All three find sex the easiest way to transform themselves. Only Murray's brainy and profoundly disenfranchised nephew from upstate aggressively pursues his belief in the true and the good, but he proves to be a sort of literary terrorist, threatening to blow the family apart. The humorous intimacies of Messud's portraits do not, finally, soften the judgments behind them: If this is what's become of the liberal imagination, is it worth fighting for?
Copyright © 2006
I enjoyed the characters and felt that they were richly developed. They were complex, and each had both redeeming and condeming qualities. I did not find it to ramble, like others that reviewed this book.