Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children"
Now that I am back from China, and despite the fact that I have tons of papers to grade, I am indeed very much into Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children." I read "The Last Life" several years ago (an autograph first edition I found at Cornell University Bookstore), and while I enjoyed the descriptions and the amazing, elaborate way she made the setting of the story so real, I also felt at the end that the story was over-written/over-done. Now I can say that I made that determination based on ignorance--it was the first work by Messud that I had ever read. Messud is certainly a master, a talent of such invigorating capacity that the plot energy carries from page to page--her voice clear and distinct. I can see how this book got the positive reviews it did, and its nomination to one of the best books of 2007 is not without its warrants.
The story revolves around a group of friends/family members in New York City. The group is a grabasstic crew of thirty-somethings trying to make it, having made it and being washed out, or simply surviving. Marina Thwaite, the daughter of Murray Thwaite (an intellectual of some caliber) is washed out just starting her 30s. Her friend Danielle happens to be a borderline success, and a pretty good tension (sexual and platonic) takes place between her and Murray Thwaite. Then there's their gay friend, Jules. All kinds of social and private situations arise that keep the reader interested and turning pages. I am only on Chapter 24 and so far I've had a pretty good blast with some really deep characters and an intense plot line. Like I said, I really think it is Messud's fabulous use of language that keeps the reader glued... I didn't think writing like this was possible (and that's not hyperbole).
I am so behind on my reading list for this year. The summer is starting to look rather packed and stressful, so thinking of catching up with my reading then is pretty much out of the question. I have to other books, "The Religion of the Samurai," and "Bushido: The Soul of Japan" that I am adding to my list, or replacing some of the other titles with. The trip to China really did me in when it comes to my reading list. Four more weeks before we go out on summer break.... writing and reading will be the course of day then.