The Emperor's Children

The phrase comedy of manners is often deceptive, attached to works neither funny nor full of well-behaved characters. Take Claire Messud’s delightful look at privileged almost-30-year-olds in 2001 Manhattan. She grants us chasm-deep looks into society gal Marina Thwaite, living again with her parents; her college-dropout cousin; and her friends. While The Emperor’s Children impressively explores entitlement and waning youth, it dips into somewhat exploitative territory by using the most dramatic tragedy in recent years (see the date) as the impetus for these navel-gazing narcissists to reconsider their shallow lives.

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