Book One: The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud

Book 1 and Me- Yes that is my 'ick' face

Book 1 and Me- Yes that is my ‘ick’ face

The Emperor’s Children– a book written by Claire Messud is a bit of a departure from the books that normally catch my attention. That is one of the enjoyable things about this type of project, I get to try new things.  Firstly when it comes to this book- it does not really pull one in until they are several chapters into the book.  This is partially attributed to the style of the book, which has different narrators for each chapter.  My second issue partially comes from the writing style employed in this book- I find that it lacks a bit of punch.  Towards the end of the book- I found myself glancing over the descriptive data until I got to the next bit of dialogue. Ultimately- I felt that the characters were quite shallow and without morals which can be seen as an accurate portrayal of some in the upper class and of some people in modern times.

It is a bit of a ‘coming of age’ tale that centers around three thirty-somethings and a twenty-something living in pre-9/11 New York.  The thirty-somethings all find an illusion of love in the forms of an extramarital affair, a marriage for power and a coupling driven by control. The relationships rule a good portion of the book- but show the utter lack of morals that many in this generation have when it comes to the idea of love.  The closest thing to a ‘successful and loving’ relationship is that of Marina Thwaite and Ludovic Seely- but it can ultimately be seen as a marriage of connections, that quickly soured after the honeymoon.

The twenty-something is the character that I feel needs some attention- Frederick “Bootie” Tubb is a purist and a critical character in this story.  He sees the world as a place where many people pretend.  They pretend to be a magnificent writer, a studious college student and many more things.  These false lives bother him greatly and he wants to do something about it. He wants to change the way that the world works.

The life that Bootie wants is a bit odd for many people to fathom, but he sees himself taking a different path to learning, a more organic path.  He believes that he will find this path by living in New York with the Thwaites, but is only disappointed again when he finds out the failings of his idol and uncle, Murray Thwaite.  Bootie does many questionable things throughout the book, but some of the things that he does pushes a person to think about what they might do if they had the chance to do things the way they truly wanted to.  If they could merely jump off the script of their life, disappear and try something new. I am not saying that any of the things he does are right- I merely think that it embodies the way that Bootie wants to live.

What did I learn from this book?  Personally- it is that I would rather live life unscripted.  Do things that are odd and different, but truly give me pleasure. Do things that no one would imagine me doing, push myself past the limits that have been imposed by society and myself.  And while I am doing all of this- live a good life.  Live a sound life.  Live a life that if someone where to discover my ‘secrets’ it would not cause them to wonder why they admired me in the first place.  I want to live a life where morals matter and where dishonesty is unacceptable.  I want to strive to not be another of The Emperor’s Children.

Overall review: 3 out of 5

  • Content and material were alright, but not completely original and lacked a bit of a moral balance.  There is a lesson to learn, but I feel other books can teach the same lesson in a better and more interesting manner.

Did you miss the list of books?  Find it and the basis of this project here.

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