"The Emperor's Children" by Claire Messud

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Set in New York in 2001, this novel chronicles the yearnings and failings of three friends, Danielle (perhaps our main protaganist), her best friend Marina, and their gay friend, Julius. Along the way, Claire Messud instructs us very skillfully about love and loss, about idealism and disillusion, honesty and hypocrisy.

An innocent would-be disciple moves to New York and secures a position with his hero. He finds himself disillusioned in due course (where a more worldly apprentice might not), and writes a hatchet-piece in all starry-eyed honesty. Predictably, the hero banishes the youth from his employ, who moves to a Brooklyn hovel and is perhaps lost when the twin towers are hit on September 11. Whither truth? Whither idealism?

Ms. Messud is particularly strong when reflecting the thought processes of her characters. Emotional forces running through friends and family ring true; I was never confused over motivation, nor by emotional cause and effect. The prose is graceful and fluid, touched perfectly by idiom. This is a writer who knows her milieu and puts you square in the middle of it. She's very effective.

Character, plot, style, and theme meld ineffably here. Most definitely worth your while.
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