The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud.

I finished this book last week, and I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. I was still processing it, and for this one, I needed a little more time, though I will go ahead and say that I did like it, very much. I read it on the recommendation of 50 Books (I just noticed that, in that same post, she mentions a book I just checked out, The Shadow of the Wind. And I also checked out On Beauty based on her recommendation. I like a lot of the same stuff that she does), and, in this post, she called the book “deceptively simple” and filled with “moral ambiguity.” I’d agree with both of those statements. It was incredibly interesting to read about these people who were caught between what they imagine they are capable of and what their lives are really like. I have had some conversations about how many people in their 20s and 30s seem to be more aimless than you’d expect, that many of us are acting as if we’re not yet ready to be the grownups that we are. The book is not only about the expectations that the three 30-year-olds in the book have for themselves, it’s also about why they have those expectations, what their parents expect of them, and whether they believe they can live up to that. One of the main themes is entitlement, which seems to be crippling these 30-year-olds rather than offering them the freedom they might expect.

This book is also about perspective, and how everyone has their own ideas about how things should be, about what’s going on. It touched on the fact that we are all the lead actors in our own shows, even when we accuse other people of doing exactly the same thing. That resonated with me, because something I have learned/am still learning is that I can’t force people to see my point of view. Even when my point of view is the correct one. (hee.)

I think this review is similar to how I felt about the book (and I talked in this entry about the ideas of the book and not what the book was actually about, so that review might be a good place to check if you were curious about the plot) – I do think the ending left some things unexplored, and that made it slightly disappointing. However, the New York Times named The Emperor’s Children one of its 10 Best Books of 2006, and I can definitely see why. It was, to put it simply, a very good book.

(I reserve the right to talk about this book more when I’ve listened to Slate’s audio discussion of it, which will hopefully be this weekend.)

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