From the back: “The Emperor’s Children is a richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune—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. In this tour de force, celebrated author Claire Messud brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.”
Very disappointed with this book. I can handle (and, if they’re done well, appreciate) a lack of plot, a cast of self-obsessed characters with very few redeeming qualities, and sentences that go on for hella days because they are inundated with em dashes and parenthetical statements. I did enjoy the majority of the book—Messud’s dense prose is often worth wading through, and the unlikeable characters (sometimes) evoked my sympathy. However, I thought the use of 9/11 as a major plot point, seemingly because the author didn’t have a better way to end the book, was a cop out. I kept hoping that the ending would pull the novel together, but it opened up the rest of the book’s flaws to me, such as the unrealistic idealization of Murray Thwaite and the fact that the characters don’t change at all, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason behind the lack of change.
I liked Messud’s prose style until this sentence (yes, it is one sentence) on page 368: “She, who had felt she saw so clearly that it hurt, had felt that the truth, crystalline, was, with Murray, granted her (though not through his help, or anything he did: but just by his presence; as though, indeed, he were but a part of her that had been lost, a magnificent Platonic epiphany repeated, and daily repeated: this, surely, was love!), felt, now, that the weight of emotion lay like a veil, a fine mist.”