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The Emperor's Children [Hardcover]

Claire Messud
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2006

Danielle, a junior television producer, is on the hunt for the documentary idea that will make her reputation; Marina, the beautiful daughter of a famous and wealthy liberal journalist and intellectual, is desperate to prove her worth - while unsure exactly of how this is to be achieved; Julius, a freelance writer of devastating book reviews, is determined to live a fabulous Manhattan lifestyle on a budget of nothing at all.

The Emperor's Children follows these three friends - and their overlapping social and family circles - through their day-to-day lives, their perceived struggles and successes and their constant search for meaning and authenticity. Sweeping in scope, minutely perceptive about the nuances of Manhattan life, with richly drawn characters and vivid prose, The Emperor's Children is a finely textured portrait of a particular place at a particular moment - and a haunting illustration how the events of a single day can change everything, for ever. It reveals Claire Messud as a novelist in bloom, writing at the height of her powers.

'Messud is an expert storyteller. Her style is precise and illuminating . . . dazzling' Observer

'Messud's ability to filter her rich imagination through brilliantly precise prose allows her to show the kernel of redemption in even the most unlikely of human alliances' Sunday Times

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Fifth Printing edition (1 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330444476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330444477
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 874,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"In tracing each of these characters’ trajectories, Ms. Messud does a nimble, quicksilver job of portraying...within and without." -- New York Times, August 22, 2006

"Messud’s ambitious, glamorous, and gutsy new a leap forward, a marvel of bold momentum and kinetic imagination." -- Elle

"Riveting . . . A cheeky exposé of the pundit class in all its privileged splendor...An excellent read." -- The Atlantic Monthly

'Messud is an expert storyteller. Her style is precise and illuminating . . . dazzling' -- Observer

'[A] book of dazzling reach . . . Messud [writes] with precision,
humour and loveliness.'
-- Gaby Wood, The Observer, 20 August 2006

'rich imagination ...brilliantly precise prose.' -- Sunday Times

'truly exceptional' -- Sunday Herald

‘Messud’s precise style clothes the story of […] complex romances
and relationships with a dazzling glamour' -- Saga

‘The modern day Edith Wharton delivers a novel about contemporary
Manhattan’ -- The List

‘[A] deceptively enjoyable novel...[a] glittering, whirling
narrative’ -- Observer

From the Publisher

Longlisted for the 2006 Booker Prize

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful 15 Nov 2006
This book is dense and yet the story moves along well. The writing is beautiful and revelatory without losing sight of the characters or the story. Claire Messud manages to convey a real sense of New York and New Yorkers both native and adopted. It is one of the only books other than Edith Wharton or in a sense "The Bonfire of the Vanities", that I have read that gives a sense of the uniqueness of Manhattan as a city and the complex emotions it engenders in it's inhabitants and also in those who stay on the outside (ie the midwest or upstate New York). This is really an accomplishment, as it is so central to the idea of New York as a city and yet so very difficult to express. The book builds towards 9/11, which the reader knows is coming, while of course the characters are unaware of it. This adds a layer of poignancy and tension that is very effective. The twin towers and the pentagon are written about within the context of the lives of those in the book and so is apocolyptic on a human scale. There is a vibrant sense of life in the city at that exact moment in time that is really history now, even so soon afterwards(the anthrax scares?). At all times this book is amazingly well written and it does not feel either voyeuristic or opportunistic in relation to the real events of the time. Facinating and engrossing, "The Emperor's Children" will stay with me for a long time.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful, funny portrait of pre-9/ll Manhattan 10 Oct 2006
By richard
I have to respectfully disagree with the two negative reviews here. I found I couldn't put this book down, and that much of the power and comedy comes from Messud's style, which is lyrical when it needs to be, and looser when it needs to be -- just like James or Wharton (or Stendhal or Balzac). This is a fabulously entertaining book about ambition and failure in contemporary New York, fully of witty apercus and delicious dialogue. It is also genuinely moving -- the portrait of Murray Thwaite, the aging journalist, is very well done. Also, this is surely not "a 9/11 novel." Most of it is set before 9/ll, and Messud's profound point is that 9/ll doesn't change very much about these characters' lives. Except for one character, Bootie, who is always outside the charmed circle.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seven eights of a good book 22 Sep 2006
I wish I could share other people's overwhelming enthusiasm for this book but somehow I can't. Well crafted and well written, the book does convey a sense of what happens to people when talent, affluence and privilige isn't enough. It's familiar,if not perhaps stock,contemporary american characters move smoothly and unknowingly towards a finale marked by the tragedy of 9/11. But unlike other reviewers I was unmoved by the finale of this book. Maybe re-invention is a very contemporary response to tragedy but when its the re-invention of a relatively late coming and minor character,it seems a very feeble one. I hope there is a better New York story out there somewhere.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Abandoned after 300+ pages 19 Nov 2007
By Bellini
I consider I just wasted valuable reading time by persevering with this novel for 300-odd pages. I was taken in by the glowing reviews inside and on the jacket and the fact that it had been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. I rarely if ever fail to finish a book, once started. But there's always a first! This was long-winded, poorly written (long convoluted sentences) and the plot failed to proceed at anything more than snail's pace. I couldn't engage with any of the characters who were either caricatures or stereotypes. Couldn't have cared less what happened to any of them.
I turned with a sense of relief to 'Waxwings' by Jonathan Raban. Now that's what I call writing!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The people in this novel are mostly quite rich, well-upholstered, often mildly dislikeable, but often intriguing too. One doesn't much care about what happens to them, since what can happen to moneyed, privileged New Yorkers? There are touchstones in the form of people - Danielle, a documentary producer for an independent company, who embarks on an affair with a married man; Marina, one of the most dislikeable characters, lifelong friend to Danielle, although she is a whiner, and has an inflated sense of her own abilities and self-importance, and who marries during the course of the novel, the clever, mercurial, even rather reptilian Ludovic Seeley, an Australian in New York to start a new cultural/political magazine designed to shoot down a few shibboleths and monuments along the way. Then there is Julius, gay friend of Danielle and Marina, who has just ended a relationship as the novel opens - who comes complete with a coke-habit, is a writer of acerbic reviews but is worried that all his early promise has dissipated without the acclaim his intellect deserves.

Messud's character creation is adroit, clever and accomplished, though the more sympathetic characters are more minor ones - mothers, wives, children, whose stories are background rather than foreground. Though the cover makes a point of it, the Twin Towers disaster only happens towards the end of the novel, when the business of betrayal among the elite has almost run its course.

I found this an enjoyable read, if a little anodyne in part, mainly because of the monumental self-involvement of all but a few of the characters. The tragedy of reaching thirty without the book written, the man married, the name made or boosted satisfactorily, is thrown into relief by the disaster of the Twin Towers, but Messud has no political axe to grind and the bewilderment and fear it engenders is not overplayed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Very dull, whispers interested in such self obsessed new
Very dull , whispers interested in such self obsessed new yorkers
Published 2 days ago by neighbour
3.0 out of 5 stars A stylish critique
I enjoyed The Emperor's Children up to a point.

It evokes the lives of the privileged of NYC very well. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Cassie Havisham
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Emporer
One of those deeply intelligent books that continue to deliver from start to finish. Great believable characters and an interesting storyline. Read more
Published 12 months ago by nickyb
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good
I enjoyed this very much. It's a startling tale told in a very subtle and under-keyed way. The main characters of the story are not hugely attractive - however, the writer cleverly... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jane Bushby
1.0 out of 5 stars Total Rubbish
I can't believe it got so much praise. Kind of a mockery to those who were deeply affected by 9/11.
Published 13 months ago by L
1.0 out of 5 stars Perfect bedtime reading for insomniacs!
This has got to be one of the worst books I have ever read. The characters are weak, the writing style is appalling and I don't think that the author had ever had any English... Read more
Published on 17 Mar 2011 by S. E. Sewell
1.0 out of 5 stars Navel-Gazing in Manhattan
I remember hearing great things about this book when it came out about five years ago, but it was the kind of praise that didn't really resonate with me. Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2011 by A. Ross
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious Soap
I can only assume that the reviewers who wrote in prestigious publications the encomia reproduced on the cover were sent a different book under the same title. Read more
Published on 22 Sep 2010 by Mr. Bernard A. O'sullivan
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of the vacuum
For this thirty-one year-old, Claire Messud's story of thirty-somethings in 2001 New York made for mortifying reading. Read more
Published on 27 Dec 2007 by Manchester Manual
1.0 out of 5 stars This book should have a pink fluffy cover!
I read this book on the basis that it was a literary book that crossed over to a good read. The writer was praised as erudite and insightful. Read more
Published on 6 Sep 2007 by Wayne Cork
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