â€œThe Emperorâ€™s Childrenâ€ is, on its surface, a stingingly observant novel about the facades of the chattering class â€” with its loves, ambitions and petty betrayals â€” but it is also, more profoundly, about a wholesale collision of values: those of the truth-telling but hypocritical Murray Thwaite, who epitomizes earnest 1960â€™s liberalism, and the Machiavellian Seeley, who represents postmodernism and its assumption that truth is fungible. The metaphorical pawn in their struggle â€” a struggle over status â€” is Bootie Tubb, who is too young to accept that he lives in a world of filigreed self-absorption rather than pragmatic transcendentalism, and who rightly sees Murrayâ€™s self-satisfaction for what it is. And so Bootie â€” poor, clueless Bootie â€” becomes both the novelâ€™s antihero and its hero, setting out to expose Murray by writing a tell-all article for Seeleyâ€™s new magazine.
Based on the lengthy excerpt here, I’m guessing the Messud wrote but did not read this novel, making it a good early draft. I wish she had cleaned it up before release. Ah well, all is beta.
I liked the proximate juxtaposition of “aubergine” with “Aborigines.” More of those and one could forgive the overwhelming turgidity, evidenced in sentences like:
Having spent half an hour putting on her face in front of the grainy mirror of Moira and John’s bathroom, ogling her imperfections and applying vigorous remedial spackle-beneath which her weary, olive-shaped eyes were pouched by bluish bags, the curves of her nostrils oddly red, and her high forehead peeling-she had no intention of revealing to strangers the disintegration beneath her paint.