The Emperor’s Children

Sometimes it’s just nice to read a book about people. Even if they are sort of spoiled, whiny people. I liked Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, though for the longest time I thought it was a book about China. You know, emperors…China. And since I’d just read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I held off.

But I was so wrong. Instead it’s about a handful of rather self-indulgent New York literati, their neurotic insides entertainingly illuminated by Messud’s witty hand. I didn’t think it a particularly profound book, but it’s a good character novel nonetheless—a great way to disappear for a while in the heads of some charming strangers and their secrets and lies.

Messud does take a bit too long, in my opinion, to bring all the storylines together (about half the book), but once they meshed, I was hooked. I always find it fascinating to read about young East Coast writers, who seem to score appointments at national literary magazines just by flashing their English degrees and tossing their hair. That s*** just doesn’t happen in California, no matter how good you are.

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