Monday, June 18, 2007

The Emperor's Children - kookiejar's review

This novel is very much about the sense of entitlement that is so pervasive in our culture today. Kids graduating from high school or even college refusing to work certain jobs that they feel are 'beneath' them or even worse refusing to work at all because they feel that they are destined for greatness.

The 'emperor' from the title refers to Murray Thwaite, a very rich and highly respected New York journalist. His daughter, Marina has been trying to write a book (about the historical significance of children's clothes, of all things) since she graduated from college but hasn't found the proper inspiration to complete it. Enter poor relation, Cousin Booty, a slacker from upstate who, on the spur of the moment decides he is destined to be one of the world's great thinkers. So, he decides to apprentice with the greatest thinker he knows -- Uncle Murray.

Spoiled Marina and her equally spoiled and idiotic friends live their lives as if what they do is of Earth shattering importance and when a tragedy (a HUGE tragedy) unfolds around them, it kicks their own self-importance into high gear.

The characters in this book are utterly ridiculous and completely unlikeable. I really didn't care one fig what happened to any of them. Even when the tragedy occurred, I knew they were going to internalize it in a way that made all the suffering about them. They did not let me down.

The prose is slow and plodding for the most part and the only reason I kept reading was to see if Booty (who reminded me of Ignatius P Reilly from 'A Confederacy of Dunces' ) was ever going to make good. He didn't.

I agree with Kim. Don't waste your time with this one.

My update: I've got 7 more to go to finish the 20 I promised myself I would complete. However, with one more, I will have read exactly one half of the entire list (fiction only). Whew!

I am currently reading 'Everyman', and 'Digging to America' and I have dipped my toes into 'Possibility of an Island'. I'm still chugging along.


Dewey said...

Aw, too bad. I have this one as one of my picks, too. Maybe I should just delete it from my list.

kookiejar said...

No, please read it, Dewey.

Everybody's tastes are different, and I'd be interested to see if you saw something valuable in it that I didn't.

Carrie K said...

If I couldn't even get through half of Confederacy of Dunces, think I have a shot at this one? The premise at least sounds promising.

kookiejar said...

Stylistically, they are nothing alike. I just thought Booty had a lot in common with Ignatius and I sort of liked 'Confederacy', but it did go on a bit longer than it needed to, didn't it?

Give this one a try. The worst that could happen is that you have to set it aside, right?

Wendy said...

I already own this book, so I'll be reading it; I've heard some real mixed reviews on this one (mostly bad, though)...sigh.

Wendy said...

Well, I had a little different take o on this one :) I actually liked the book - although I agree that the characters are unlikable, I thoroughly enjoyed the observations on humanity and the privileged classes. I thought Messud's points were spot on.