“Well, then.” Ludovic sat up against the headboard, cleared his throat. “As parents, we visit our complexes, whatever they may be, upon our children – our neuroses, our hopes and fears, our discontents. Just the way our broader society is like a parent, and visits its complexes upon the citizenry, if you will.” – From The Emperor’s Children, page 205 –
The Emperor’s Children is an intellectual miasma about the superficiality of the privileged classes – and the subsequent collision of values between the haves and have nots. Set in New York City in 2001, the book explores the lives of five major characters: Marina – a rich and spoiled pseudo-journalist; Julius – a gay, confused free lance critic; Danielle – a television producer with attitude; Frederick “Bootie” Tubb – an idealistic and slightly creepy college drop out; and Murray Thwaite – a middle aged, liberal “emperor” who has made a name in journalism. The novel is narrated in alternating points of view and spans a period of half a year, tying together (with an artistic flair) the rather superficial threads of each character’s motivations and lives. None of these characters is especially likable, but all are compulsively readable.
Messud creates a novel about the upper classes: their attitude of entitlement, their petty betrayals, their focus on power. In doing so, she reveals some interesting truths about humanity. I enjoyed her observations about higher education:
…about raising children and giving them everything their hearts desire:
…and about high tech, computerized corporate America:
Messud has written a sharp, witty expose that intrigued me. Her writing is observant, her characters complex and well developed. Although this is not the type of book I usually enjoy, I found myself unable to put it down.