Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Emperor's Children

The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud, was excruciating painful for me and I never would have finished if it had not been a book club pick. For starters, a central character is a middle-aged male writer who's having an affair with friend of his daughter. What IS the fascination writers have with this character? He appears in roughly 50% of contemporary fiction and, as I've mentioned before, he's not remotely interesting to me. Typically, he's written by a male author and I always assume that the author is just indulging his own fantasy on my time, but this time it's a female author so I can't conjure a reason why this character needed to appear here. The rest of the characters were equally unappealing and uninteresting to me. I guess the novel operates on a metaphorical level exploring the meaning of authenticity, exposing pseudo-intellectualism, and considering the outsider experience. This is worthy territory. It made for a great book club discussion, though others generally disliked the book as much as I did.

It takes place in NYC and climaxes with 9/11, which is obviously not a coincidence. Spoiler alert: Awkwardness results from being at your girlfriend's apartment in Manhattan when you've told your wife you're giving a speech in Pittsburgh on the day terrorists strike causing all flights to be grounded and showing up at home reveals you weren't actually in Pittsburgh.

It was well-reviewed (e.g. NYTimes here) and was nominated for and won several awards, so I'm sure I've just failed to appreciate it to the extent it deserves.


Stephanie said...

Dagnabit. Meant to save that rather than publish it. But I'm not posting again until M posts.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Sweet sweet victory...