In the gap between review titles I recently hugged to me for a few days Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, loathe to let it down or for the story to end. I had wanted to review it upon publication last year, but it never worked out–now I am glad, for this book is so good that writing a review would have been a joyful but difficult task. I’m happy to have had the pleasure of simply reading this artful story, on the surface about the intersecting lives of three friends just beginning their thirties, composed of brilliantly plaited points of view and populated with dynamic, closely observed, complex characters, heartfelt but intellectually engaging and subtle plots lines rendered with perfect diction and immaculate writing. I truly didn’t want it to end.
Here’s one of my favorite parts–a conversation between a revered journalist and his slightly crazy young nephew, who has embarked on a path of self-education–but you really should read the whole. Better yet, just click and order The Emperor’s Children now–you won’t regret it. If I had such a thing, I’d give it a rare 5 out of 5 Lotuses.
“‘I feel like I need to read these novels,’ he sad to Murray, ‘but I don’t really enjoy a lot of them. It’s just weird, you know, why aren’t I reading, like, history? Which tells you more. I guess I figure I’ll read that stuff anyway, and this is more like homework; but the thing is, I’m kind of drawn to them, novels, I mean; it’s like a love-hate thing.’
“‘You’re absolutely right. You do need to read them,’ his uncle said. ‘That’s what it means to be civilized. Novels, history, philosophy, science–the lot. You expose yourself to as much as possible, you absorb it, you forget most of it, but along the way it’s changed you.’
“‘But you don’t forget things.’
“‘Of course I do. Writing helps. When you write about something, when you really think about it, you know it in a different way.'”