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The Emperor's Children

2.92  ·  Rating Details ·  17,136 Ratings  ·  2,713 Reviews
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.

Friends at Brown University, Marina, Danielle, and Julius are still looking to make their marks as they approach their 30s. Marina lives with her celebrat
Paperback, First Vintage Books edition, 479 pages
Published June 26th 2007 by Vintage Books (first published August 29th 2006)
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Mark Desrosiers
I only read about eight pages, a stately procession of blindingly obvious sentences with laser-pointers and strobelights and migraines between every fooking vowel and consonant, but I don't need to read any more. This is exactly the sort of prose that should be excised from these mass NYC-wuss fiction rollouts. For example (skipping forward to page 27):

The insouciance, of course, masked endless and wearisome neuroses, to which Marina and Danielle were privy.

"Of course" -- what kind of sadistic w
Is Claire Messud Wearing Any Clothes?

This is a question I have been sleeping fitfully on. I finished The Emperor's Children last night and I really wanted to be able to post a wholly enthusiastic assessment of it here, but I can't. First, let's get rid of business. This is a book that has to appear in the epilogue of my dissertation, which discusses literary reactions to the Sept. 11 attacks. My primary focus here is going to be on how in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Jonathan Safran Foer
Jul 11, 2008 Eric rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

1.) There's the grand old man of letters, Murray Thwaite, and the erotic charge in his relationship with his beautiful, adoring daughter Marina, who begins a relationship with and eventually marries Ludovic, an editor and a rising young Turk among the 'chattering classes,' a man Murray despises and who despises Murray in turn. Messud begins to weave a Jamesian tale in which Murray and Ludovic, monsters of egotism, vie for control of the affections of the passive, childlike Marina...but then she
May 05, 2008 Stacey rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: um, no one!
I have less than 100 pages left in this one, but don't foresee the end changing my opinion.

I hated this book. Hated. I must not be smart enough to "get it", since I didn't go to Brown and all. But really, (can you not put entire sentences in parenthesis) within your other run-on, (never ending sentences?? Please??). I mean seriously, get an us 300 pages. I felt the need to consult a dictionary every other page, but really just didn't care that much to understand what EXACTLY, SPECI
Jul 02, 2008 Tina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Painfully overwritten. You can almost feel Messud pausing at points to thumb through a thesaurus.
Jul 12, 2007 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found "The Emperor's Children" incredibly disappointing. The reviews I had read just raved and raved, but I disliked it intensely. Shallow, solipsistic characters about whom I couldn't even bring myself to care - neither could the author apparently, as some were nothing more than lazy ciphers - the guy from Australia, Julius's boyfriend, the wife. Good God, if you are going to stoop to the jaded device of bringing in an alienated outsider to stir things up, please take the time at least to dev ...more
Jul 19, 2007 Ewurama rated it it was ok
I didn’t start to get into this one until about 200 pages in, when out of nowhere came intrigue! scandal! Until that point the characters came across as either too irritating or too false to grab me. (Seriously, Ludovic Seeley? Bootie Tubb? Sounds like a cartoon villain and his sidekick.)

I did find myself drawn in, though, around page 200 as I said, and there were many instances at which I did really admire the author’s writing—whether for a particular turn of phrase or a keenly drawn insight.
Nov 15, 2015 Elyse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sure I wrote a review of this book. Not sure where it went. I read this book when it first came out one summer when staying at Harbin Hot Springs for the summer.
Read most of it outside under a tree each day.

I love this author .."The Woman Upstairs" is my favorite.

I liked this book.. however - my one problem with it .., was I felt the writing was MUCH more sophisticated than the story itself.
I must have looked up more vocabulary words in this book - than 10 other fiction books combined.

Jul 16, 2007 Rebekah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: New Yorkers, people who see entitlement as a problem
My personal bible- the Sunday New York Times Book Review- claimed that this novel was the best of the year, the first to tackle the issues of the current 30-something generation, the first to directly deal with September 11 in fiction form and basically brilliant. I went into this book with high expectations and was not disappointed.

The characters in this novel are all superbly drawn and voiced, each seems like a separate, distinct being with individual loves, fears, insecurities, desires and ab
Sep 05, 2007 L rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brown graduates in their early 30s living in Manhattan
Shelves: over-rated
After finally finishing this book in an agonizing three days, I read the NYT book review on line to try to figure out why the NYT would consider this book is notable. Evidently, Massud is a "writer's writer" and the reviewer herself was a Brown graduate in her '30s.

Not being either a writer or a Brown graduate, and being in the later half of my 30's, nothing in this book grabbed or amused me, save, perhaps, the character of Julius. This is due in part to the forced use of "10 cent words" when o
Oct 14, 2008 Katherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: striving new york city thirty-pushers, of course.
Recommended to Katherine by: Alison Sharpe
Shelves: newer-fiction
This book came in for a drubbing from the Goodreads community that was very much at odds with the fulsome praise on its back cover. Where I shall I situate myself on this continuum of blame to praise?

At over 400 pages, The Emperor's Children is long, but I raced through it, inhaling sections like I've been known to do with big bowls of salty, buttery popcorn. This may have something to do with where I'm at, right now -- craving the kind of escape that narrative provides -- but it's also a testam
Aug 21, 2007 Jennifer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
There are several things that I did not like about this book. For starters, the writing style and language used was rather arrogant, pompous, and supercilious. Do you get my point? She used multiple adjectives that mean the same thing and also used words that sound like they were straight out of Dawson's Creek. NO ONE talks like that! I think she may have spent more time looking up fancier ways to phrase things rather than on the plot.

I didn't like this book from the beginning and it killed me
Ron Charles
Jan 03, 2014 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 9-11
We've all caught glimpses of them before, but Claire Messud has captured and pinned under glass members of a striking subspecies of the modern age: the smart, sophisticated, anxious young people who think of themselves as the cultural elite. Trained for greatness in the most prestigious universities, these shiny liberal arts graduates emerge with expensive tastes, the presumption of entitlement and no real economic prospects whatsoever. If you're one of them or if you can't resist the delicious ...more
Chris Dietzel
Jul 27, 2016 Chris Dietzel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe the best example I've ever found of the disconnect between what the average reader enjoys and what literary critics say is good.
Nov 26, 2007 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A last minute, impulsive buy at the airport, en route to France, that I thought I remembered reading really good things about. I read it on the plane, I read it in hotels, I read it on the train. At first, I thought, "she writes well and this is good." I have children younger than those in the book, so was interested in the fates and trajectories of her characters, even though several of them were pretty unlikeable. The more I read, the more I kept waiting for the good parts. By the time it ende ...more
Galen Johnson
Jun 15, 2008 Galen Johnson rated it did not like it
This book follows three Brown graduates at that crossroads of turning 30, trying to reach their potential and somewhat confused about why they haven't. SO disappointing that there wasn't much insight associated with this book...I was really looking forward to reading it, being a Brown graduate who just dealt with reaching my 30s and having read fantastic reviews of the book. Aside: Why did Messud have to pick on Brown??? There are shallow failures from every school. Okay, enough personal complai ...more
Sep 12, 2007 Matthew rated it liked it
It's no secret how The Emperor's Children will end. Claire Messud's novel follows a group of New Yorkers, all connected in some way, during the summer and fall of 2001, culminating with the terrorist attacks of September 11. The tragedy is unavoidable and, for the reader, completely foreseen. But this isn't a book about September 11. Messud doesn't rely on or construct her story around the impending disaster like, say, something like Titanic does. What's important here is not that the tragedy oc ...more
On the cover of this book about people living in New York it says this book received the honor of "best book of the year" from the New York Times. Talk about navel contemplation, because I truly cannot understand why this book won any awards. The book is borderline horrid. It's as if each character is like the writer character in Sideways, so painful to watch that it's tempting to turn off the movie. Too much detail, too much wining, too much fuss about everything that takes away from the basic ...more
Mar 14, 2011 Tony rated it did not like it
I remember hearing great things about this book when it came out about five years ago, but it was the kind of praise that didn't really resonate with me. Fast-forward to the present, and now having it read it, I can see why. The book is a truly mystifying mess of fairly stock characters engaged in the most egregious privileged Manhattanite navel-gazing imaginable, written in outrageously pretentious and contorted run-on sentences. I would have gladly abandoned the book after fifty pages in the p ...more
Dec 30, 2007 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's 2001 in Manhattan, and each character is trying (with varying levels of commitment) to do something or be someone that matters. Three friends (Marina, Danielle, and Julius) have just turned thirty and are staring down their disappointments -- unfinished book manuscripts, botched projects, failed love affairs, apartments "where pets go to die". Marina's father, renowned social critic Murray Thwaite, is struggling to write what he hopes will be his masterwork. Then his nephew Bootie drops out ...more
Marc Kozak
Mar 22, 2012 Marc Kozak rated it did not like it

Also, this is an actual sentence:

"But for right now, on the Sunday evening the week after the wedding, it just felt as though she were married not to a man but to The Monitor; or rather, that she was not married at all, because it was after nine p.m. and she had packed in hours ago - the issue in all its glory wouldn't be sent to the printer until Tuesday night and her part was done, for this first time at least, and the pieces for her section in the
Oct 30, 2014 Briana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The first chapter seemed so much like an airport romance novel that I almost stopped reading, sure I had gotten this book confused with another. I wish I had stopped then, or I wish it would have been a flighty romance. Instead, I cringed my way through this sophomoric Love Actually-meets-existentialism and its stilted dialogue and pretentious pseudo-philosophic prose only to be put off *SPOILER-ISH ALERT* by the author's reliance on 9/11 as a pivot point for all of the characters. I'm not again ...more
Susan E
Apr 20, 2008 Susan E rated it did not like it
I was forewarned about this book, yet it was something we were reading for my book group, so I found my way through it... I am sorry I did.

Seldom has a novel been so annoying and offensive to me. The author created completely unlikeable characters that she seemed to hold in distain as well. She had to tell the reader why they were flawed, too, instead of letting us figure it out on our own. She had unkind things to say about the part of NY I hail from, making the most vexing characters come from
I was excited to read this book since it had so much "buzz" surrounding it. While it was fine and read quickly, I found myself wondering "who cares?" None of the characters were particularly likeable and the plot wasn't very interesting.
Spoiled thirty-somethings in New York City seek greater self-importance while interesting poor kid tries to make good and is shunned. Yay. Why do I keep turning the pages?

Oh right, because I’m a thirty-something in New York City. Unfortunately, the thirty-somethings in the novel are very different (hopefully) and much less interesting (again, hopefully).

To her credit, Messud’s writing, aside from an occasional bout of hyperverbosity, is spot on; she captures the emptiness of her characters beaut
Don Brown
May 07, 2007 Don Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fiction readers.
James Wood explains that the "novel exists to be shake us profoundly. When we're rigorous about feeling, we're honoring that." The reader, then, should approach the text as a writer, "which is [about] making aesthetic judgments."

Claire Messud, the author of “The Emperor’s Children” is married to James Wood, noted critic published in “The Guardian”. His precise judgment of the purpose of the novel seemed like an interesting place to begin a review of Claire Messud’s fourth novel, w
Feb 03, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: voabulary enthusiast with a dictionary on hand
Shelves: read-2009
I have to admit that I didn't hate this book as much as many, MANY other people did (see reviews here or on Amazon). If we had the chance to rate books with half stars I would definitely give this book 3.5 stars. The first half of the book really grabbed my attention and the writing is beautiful (although at times I was distracted by the author's extensive vocabulary usage). The characters were not likable but I found them to be believable. I was hoping the author would delve deeper into the fri ...more
Katie Schmid
I liked this book, though not as much as Dad. When I got to the climax of the book, the place where all the characters had to shift in relation to the big event, I felt duped, like, oh--this was why you put me through the first 400 pages of rich people being rich and worrying about rich things: to show me how inconsequential everything is, even though I already knew that, because I don't give a damn about rich people being rich a-holes. I didn't really feel connected to most of the characters... ...more
Apr 07, 2008 sdattybride rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly could not believe this was on the Times' best books list. The character development was downright poor, and the story is a simpering account of the crisis of a (my) generation that has been given such a vast array of grand opportunities which by the very fact of having been handed to us become devoid of any true meaning. Marina is truly a pathetic figure, but the author's failure to delve into what makes her a pathetic figure leaves her readers with a disappointing sense of superficia ...more
Oct 14, 2014 Tiffani rated it liked it
Sometimes with books, timing is everything, and I think I read The Emperor's Children at the wrong time, or at least not at the best time. If I had read it a few years ago, maybe when I still lived in New York, or shortly after moving or around the time I finished school, maybe I would have enjoyed it more. This isn’t to say I didn’t like it, just that I might have liked it more at a different time. This time it was good but also a little tedious.

At the center of the story are three people who h
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Painful 11 188 Nov 20, 2015 08:04AM  
Ending 1 22 Mar 31, 2014 11:20PM  
Still reading... 19 142 Apr 10, 2013 11:37AM  
Don't Waste Your Time! 2 45 Nov 16, 2011 02:38AM  
The Transatlantic...: The Emperor's Children 7 13 Nov 08, 2011 01:21PM  
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Claire Messud is an American novelist and literature and creative writing professor. She is best known as the author of the 2006 novel The Emperor's Children. She lives with her husband and family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, Messud grew up in the United States, Australia, and Canada, returning to the United States as a teenager. Messud's mother is Canadian, and her
More about Claire Messud...

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“Geniuses have the shortest biographies.” 12 likes
“That's so her. You know, torn between Big Ideas and a party. She's always been that way.” 9 likes
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