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The Emperor's Children

2.96  ·  Rating details ·  20,080 ratings  ·  2,913 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. In this tour de force, the celebrated author Claire Messud brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.

BONUS: This edition

Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published (first published August 29th 2006)
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Average rating 2.96  · 
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 ·  20,080 ratings  ·  2,913 reviews

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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
Jul 09, 2008 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
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
Jun 03, 2008 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.
Jan 14, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sara (sarawithoutanH)
Apr 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is one of the laziest and most obnoxiously pretentious books I’ve ever read. The characters were flat and uninteresting (and very annoying). I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of reading about uppity privileged white people. There’s nothing special about this book. The only character that was of some interest was Julius, but he was painfully overwritten and characterized as the typical “flamboyant gay man in NYC.” I believe he was Asian (I’m not sure Messud even takes the time t ...more
“Entitlement,” said Danielle. “It’s about a sense of entitlement.”

Pretty much sums up the book.

Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children is a very familiar story. As soon as you start reading it, you get the sense that you’ve been here before. The setting (New York City, where roughly 64% of all novels take place*) and the characters (over-educated and entitled young people) have been done before. What sets The Emperor’s Children apart is a bit subtle. For one, the young people aren’t that young,
Jul 03, 2007 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 02, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Elyse  Walters
Mar 06, 2013 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 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
I did not like this, so it gets only one star.

As I plodded through this I kept wondering what the book was trying to say. It is about growing up, standing on your own two feet and making your own way. We look at three kids who have graduated from Brown University, two girls and a gay guy. They are all approaching thirty and the year is 2001. All are floundering in every way imaginable, both on a personal level and in getting themselves established in a career. All are extremely naive and terribl
Aug 20, 2007 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 10, 2008 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
Jul 10, 2007 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 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 23, 2016 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. ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Undermining my enjoyment of 'The Emperor's Children' by Claire Messud was the upper class lifestyle. The denouement of the book failed to conquer the twitch in my lip threatening to become a sneer. These people had great opportunities with which they played stupidly. It all ended up feeling like they flipped out over petty and small worries. My bad, I suppose.

EDIT: January, 2021

Changed stars rating....
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my generation, what can I say? Educated in the best of institutions, overburdened by self-analysis, underemployed, wondering what it will all lead to after our parents have cut the umbilical cord finally. How could it not resonate?
robin friedman
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children"

Claire Messud's novel, "The Emperor's Children" (2006) is a challenging, if only partially successful, satire of modern urban secularism set in New York City in 2001. In part a comedy of manners and in part a novel of ideas, the book deals diffusely with the pretensions and difficulties of intellectual life.

I think there are two interrelated groups of central characters in the novel. The first group consists of two people: Murray Thwaite, an aging liberal
Patricia Williams
I had wanted to read this book for a long time and chose it for my book club. This was a very hard book to read, very hard to care about the characters but it took me over 1/2 through the book to start to be interested in the characters. This book had a lot of words on a page and a lot of "big" words. The story in relation to the title was very interesting and I've read this is being made into a movie which was another reason i wanted to read it and I'm sure it will be a good movie. All the char ...more
Marc Kozak
Feb 17, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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
Nov 25, 2007 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
M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
As I did not finish this book, I debated with myself whether I should give this 1 or 2 stars. I want to be fair after all, not having read the whole book.

Why did I stop reading, you ask? The purple prose. The god damn fucking purple prose. Two chapters in, and ultimately I decided that life was too short to slog through overly verbose descriptions about shallow people and their actions/decisions. There were so many paragraphs here that could have been easily condensed into two sentences and stil
Galen Johnson
Jun 15, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Charlotte Guzman
Ok, I am giving this book 2 1/2 stars.
Ugh! This book was picked for my ladies book club and I really wanted to like it but ended up not caring for it at all.
The story about 3 to 4 thirty something people who had no idea what they wanted in life. They had the opportunity to do something in life but seemed to be in angst as to what to do to fulfill this endeavor.
The author wrote with such high brow words and way too many adjectives to describe the characters and their situations. Didn't care fo
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After adoring Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs, and very much enjoying her latest novel, The Burning Girl, which I read in Florida last year, I was keen to pick up another of her books.  I chose a gorgeous Picador Classics edition of The Emperor's Children, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  The novel is set in New York in 2001, when 'the whole world shifts'.  In it, Messud explores 'how utterly we are defined by the times in which we live.'

The Independent on Sunday calls Messud's
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
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. ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Painful 11 197 Nov 20, 2015 08:04AM  
Ending 1 25 Mar 31, 2014 11:20PM  
Still reading... 19 145 Apr 10, 2013 11:37AM  
Don't Waste Your Time! 2 50 Nov 16, 2011 02:38AM  
The Transatlantic...: The Emperor's Children 7 15 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

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“The apartment was entirely, was only, for her: a wall of books, both read and unread, all of them dear to her not only in themselves, their tender spines, but in the moments or periods they evoked. She had kept some books since college that she had acquired for courses and never read—Fredric Jameson, for example, and Kant’s Critique of Judgment—but which suggested to her that she was, or might be, a person of seriousness, a thinker in some seeping, ubiquitous way; and she had kept, too, a handful of children’s books taken fro her now-dismantled girlhood room, like Charlotte’s Web and the Harriet the Spy novels, that conjured for her an earlier, passionately earnest self, the sober child who read constantly in the back of her parents’ Buick, oblivious to her brother punching her knee, oblivious to her parents’ squabbling, oblivious to the traffic and landscapes pressing upon her from outside the window.

She had, in addition to her books, a modest shelf of tapes and CDs that served a similar, though narrower, function…she was aware that her collection was comprised largely of mainstream choices that reflected—whether popular or classical—not so much an individual spirit as the generic tastes of her times: Madonna, the Eurythmics, Tracy Chapman from her adolescence; Cecilia Bartoli, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mitsuko Uchida; more recently Moby and the posthumously celebrated folk-singing woman from Washington, DC, who had died of a melanoma in her early thirties, and whose tragic tale attracted Danielle more than her familiar songs.

Her self, then, was represented in her books; her times in her records; and the rest of the room she thought of as a pure, blank slate.”
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