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The Emperor's Children
Cover of The Emperor's Children
The Emperor's Children
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A bestselling, masterful novel 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.
There is beautiful, sophisticated Marina Thwaite—an “It” girl finishing her first book; the daughter of Murray Thwaite, celebrated intellectual and journalist—and her two closest friends from Brown, Danielle, a quietly appealing television producer, and Julius, a cash-strapped freelance critic. The delicious complications that arise among them become dangerous when Murray’s nephew, Frederick “Bootie” Tubb, an idealistic college dropout determined to make his mark, comes to town. As the skies darken, it is Bootie’s unexpected decisions—and their stunning, heartbreaking outcome—that will change each of their lives forever.
A richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune—of innocence and experience, seduction and self-invention; of ambition, including literary ambition; of glamour, disaster, and promise—The Emperor’s Children is a tour de force that brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.
New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year

A bestselling, masterful novel 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.
There is beautiful, sophisticated Marina Thwaite—an “It” girl finishing her first book; the daughter of Murray Thwaite, celebrated intellectual and journalist—and her two closest friends from Brown, Danielle, a quietly appealing television producer, and Julius, a cash-strapped freelance critic. The delicious complications that arise among them become dangerous when Murray’s nephew, Frederick “Bootie” Tubb, an idealistic college dropout determined to make his mark, comes to town. As the skies darken, it is Bootie’s unexpected decisions—and their stunning, heartbreaking outcome—that will change each of their lives forever.
A richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune—of innocence and experience, seduction and self-invention; of ambition, including literary ambition; of glamour, disaster, and promise—The Emperor’s Children is a tour de force that brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.
New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year

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Excerpts-
  • From the book Our Chef Is Very Famous in London

    Darlings! Welcome! And you must be Danielle?” Sleek and small, her wide eyes rendered enormous by kohl, Lucy Leverett, in spite of her resemblance to a baby seal, rasped impressively. Her dangling fan earrings clanked at her neck as she leaned in to kiss each of them, Danielle too, and although she held her cigarette, in its mother-of-pearl holder, at arm’s length, its smoke wafted between them and brought tears to Danielle’s eyes.

    Danielle didn’t wipe them, for fear of disturbing her makeup. Having spent half an hour putting on her face in front of the grainy mirror of Moira and John’s bathroom, ogling her imperfections and applying vigorous remedial spackle—beneath which her weary, olive-shaped eyes were pouched by bluish bags, the curves of her nostrils oddly red, and her high forehead peeling—she had no intention of revealing to strangers the disintegration beneath her paint.

    “Come in, darlings, come in.” Lucy moved behind them and herded the trio toward the party. The Leveretts’ living room was painted a deep purple—aubergine, in local parlance—and its windows were draped with velvet. From the ceiling hung a brutal wrought iron chandelier, like something salvaged from a medieval castle. Three men loitered by the bay window, talking to one another while staring out at the street, their glasses of red wine luminous in the reflected evening light. A long, plump, pillowed sofa stretched the length of one wall, and upon it four women were disposed like odalisques in a harem. Two occupied opposite ends of the divan, their legs tucked under, their extended arms caressing the cushions, while between them one rested her head upon another’s lap, and smiling, eyes closed, whispered to the ceiling while her friend stroked her abundant hair. The whole effect was, for Danielle, faintly cloudy, as if she had walked into someone else’s dream. She kept feeling this, in Sydney, so far from home: she couldn’t quite say it wasn’t real, but it certainly wasn’t her reality.

    “Rog? Rog, more wine!” Lucy called to the innards of the house, then turned again to her guests, a proprietorial arm on Danielle’s bicep. “Red or white? He’s probably even got pink, if you’re after it. Can’t bear it myself—so California.” She grinned, and from her crows’ feet, Danielle knew she was forty, or almost.

    Two men bearing bottles emerged from the candlelit gloom of the dining room, both slender, both at first glance slightly fey. Danielle took the imposing one in front, in a pressed lavender shirt and with, above hooded eyes, a high, smooth Nabokovian brow, to be her host. She extended a hand. “I’m Danielle.” His fingers were elegant, and his palm, when it pressed hers, was cool.

    “Are you now?” he said.

    The other man, at least a decade older, slightly snaggletoothed and goateed, spoke from behind his shoulder. “I’m Roger,” he said. “Good to see you. Don’t mind Ludo, he’s playing hard to get.”

    “Ludovic Seeley,” Lucy offered. “Danielle—”

    “Minkoff.”

    “Moira and John’s friend. From New York.”

    “New York,” Ludovic Seeley repeated. “I’m moving there next month.”

    “Red or white?” asked Roger, whose open shirt revealed a tanned breast dotted with sparse gray hairs and divided by a...
About the Author-
  • Claire Messud was educated at Cambridge and Yale. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, and her most recent book, The Hunters, were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; her second novel, The Last Life, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Editor's Choice at The Village Voice. All three of her books were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Fellowship, and is the current recipient of the Straus Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 8, 2006
    Marina Thwaite, Danielle Minkoff and Julian Clarke were buddies at Brown, certain that they would soon do something important in the world. But as all near 30, Danielle is struggling as a TV documentary maker, and Julius is barely surviving financially as a freelance critic. Marina, the startlingly beautiful daughter of celebrated social activist, journalist and hob-nobber Murray Thwaite, is living with her parents on the Upper West Side, unable to finish her book—titled The Emperor's Children Have No Clothes
    (on how changing fashions in children's clothes mirror changes in society). Two arrivals upset the group stasis: Ludovic, a fiercely ambitious Aussie who woos Marina to gain entrée into society (meanwhile planning to destroy Murray's reputation), and Murray's nephew, Frederick "Bootie" Tubb, an immature, idealistic college dropout and autodidact who is determined to live the life of a New York intellectual. The group orbits around the post–September 11 city with disconcerting entitlement—and around Murray, who is, in a sense, the emperor. Messud, in her fourth novel, remains wickedly observant of pretensions—intellectual, sexual, class and gender. Her writing is so fluid, and her plot so cleverly constructed, that events seem inevitable, yet the narrative is ultimately surprising and masterful as a contemporary comedy of manners. 100,00 announced first printing; author tour.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from June 1, 2006
    Beautiful, Ivy League -educated, and the daughter of a renowned journalist, Marina Thwaite lives in New York City along with two close friends from Brown: television producer Danielle and freelance writer Julius, who is gay. All three are just barely 30 and making their way into adulthood. Marina has recently broken up with a longtime lover she thought she might marry and is struggling to finish a book whose advance is long spent. Meanwhile, Danielle is returning from an investigative trip to Australia, and Julius is trying to figure out how to make ends meet without admitting to his friends that he -s flat broke. Enter Marina -s young cousin, Bootie, a college dropout who -s decided that life in New York City has got to be better than life in upstate New York. Bootie -s arrival in the city is a catalyst for events that will change all their lives forever. Messud -s ("The Hunters") comedy of manners is extremely well written and features characters that come alive. The reader will be tugged in many directions as these characters - lives intersect in the realms of love, family, friendship, and tragedy. This wonderful read is an insightful look at our time and the decisions people make. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ "5/1/06.]" -Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH"

    Copyright 2006 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2006
    Known for her acuity in examining life's profound issues through intellectually probing and nuanced prose, Messud now evinces a higher level of sophistication in this darkly symbolic and overtly satiric examination of the culturally enclosed world of today's East Coast media cognoscenti. At its core is celebrated liberal journalist Murray Thwaite, an outspoken pundit used to his fair share of public adulation and abjuration. Reverence and revilement, however, are now coming from sources much closer to home. His adored and adoring 30-year-old daughter, Marina, and her best friend, Danielle, an independent TV producer, may be firmly in Murray's camp, but they are outflanked by Ludovic Seeley, an Australian magazine publisher soon to be Murray's son-in-law, and Bootie Tubb, Murray's callow, idealistic 19-year-old nephew--two men intent on exposing Murray's personal and professional hypocrisies. Ambitious and egocentric, naive yet urbane, Murray and his circle behave with a tenuous frivolity born of their exalted sense of self-worth. Comparisons to Zadie Smith's " On Beauty "(2005) are inevitable, yet Messud's courageous exploration of this societal microcosm is less ardent and more artful. Tangy dialogue, provocative asides, glittering imagery, and nimble postulations build toward an electrifying and edifying conclusion.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2006, American Library Association.)

  • Los Angeles Times

    "A masterly comedy of manners. . . . Splendid." --The New York Times Book Review"A great achievement. . . . Intelligent and unsparing . . . The Emperor's Children is likely to be one of the most talked-about novels. . . . Buy two copies; give one to a friend." --The Economist"Engaging. . . . The characters take on intriguing nuances as Messud satirizes and challenges perceived notions of culture, class and social mobility. Her vivid, juicy writing ensures an exhilarating read throughout."--USA Today"Ambitious, glamorous, and gutsy. . . . A marvel of bold momentum and kinetic imagination." --Elle"A robust, canny and surprisingly searching novel [told] with a light-handed irony that is, by turns, as measured as Edith Wharton's and as cutting as Tom Wolfe's. . . . Dazzling."

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