Tag Archives: recession

The Darlings by Cristina Alger

16th February 2012

*This book was sent to me by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking in exchange for an honest review.

Banks are failing. New York City is full of former financial-type men and women looking for work as the American economy takes hit after hit. Paul Ross is (relatively) lucky. After his firm goes under, his father-in-law, the wealthy and influential Carter Darling hires him on as general counsel for his hedge fund, Delphic. Though Paul wishes he didn’t have to rely on the Darling’s generosity, he also knows his wife Merrill is accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and he doesn’t want to disappoint her. However, when the apparent suicide of a close family friend and business associate leads to questions about the Darling’s business practices, Paul and his wife Merrill have to decide between family and freedom.

Financial thriller. The words almost sound like an oxymoron, but The Darlings is a taut, suspenseful telling of the lives of New York City’s elite and the problems in which they find themselves in one of the city’s biggest crises. Alger breaks down one small part of the financial crisis in a Madoff-like tale of greed, sex, and deception. Though the breakdown of the legal and financial problems is extensive, it is certainly not exclusive, and the inclusion of detail is interesting.

That said, the movement of a book that depends on action does naturally have to slow for these explanations, and The Darlings seems to suffer from wanting to explain the intricacies of a pyramid scheme, seek empathy for its characters, and set readers on edge, waiting for the conclusion of the story.

While it certainly kept me up, wanting to figure out who was telling what lies, I also felt as though some of the character lines were unfinished. Sometimes that doesn’t bother me if, for example, the characters are simply extraneous, but Alger’s supporting characters were, at times, more pitiable and intriguing than the main, and to finish the book without hearing from them seemed, much like the main characters’ attitudes, graceless and self serving.

The Darlings is certainly a timely book, and though very different from Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (a book I loved), novels set in New York and Washington during the financial downturn seem immediate and almost otherworldly.

Have you read The Darlings? I think this is a book that will garner a wealth of different opinions. Is this one you might pick up?

Read an excerpt here. Buy a copy from Indiebound  or on your Nook.

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

2nd August 2011

*I received this book from Harper Perennial through NetGalley in May. I have been not-so-patiently waiting to tell you all about it. Big thanks to Beth Fish Reads, whose blog introduced me to the book. Preorder at Indiebound so you can get the book NEXT TUESDAY!

Every once in a while, I happen across a book so good and so funny I immediately want to buy 10 copies and hand them out to anyone and everyone. Why only every once in a while? To be honest, humor in writing is not easy. Often, comedy is hit or miss. A book might garner a laugh or two from me, but I’ve only been known on two occasions to laugh out loud multiple times during a plane ride. David Sedaris is responsible for making a good friend and my sister steer clear from me on a layover because they were humiliated by my LOL-ing all over the place. Matthew Norman is responsible for the second occasion. Thankfully, I was traveling solo and could have cared less what my snoring, iPod-listening seatmates thought of me.

Domestic Violets (which, I’m sorry, has one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while) is the story of the Violet family. Tom Violet is a man with a problem. Actually, he’s a man with a couple problems. His wife wants a second child, and he cannot quite…ahem…rise to the occasion. Curtis Violet, Tom’s dad, is a famous writer who has just won the Prize (Pulitzer, that is) and been chucked out on his rear by his most recent, and very young, wife. On top of it all, the recession has just hit, and living in D.C., Tom is on tenterhooks, waiting to see how long he will be able to keep a job none really likes all that much, while secretly writing a novel he’s a bit terrified to publish.

What’s it really about? Well, all that stuff I just said, but to break it down: It’s really about a man who hates his job, loves his wife and family, but who isn’t quite sure how to get out of the miserable place in which he finds himself. Domestic Violets is also about how sometimes in life, when the worst happens, it leaves behind it room for the life we always wanted, except not as cheesy as that last line made it sound.

If you are on Twitter, or if you’ve picked up my subtle hints on the blog, you know I loved this book. I mean, I really loved this book. It’s funny (did I mention that already?), it’s endearing, but most of all, it’s just realistic, and I think because of the writer/family realationships, there were moments that reminded me both of The Human Stain by Philip Roth and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Not in a gimmicky, Norman-is-copying-other-authors sort of way, but in a hey-this-guy-is-a-damn-good-writer kind of way.

Want an example of the humor? Tom Violet sends his daughter to bed and tells her to go to sleep…

I can see by her expression that she’ll do whatever she damn well pleases until she hears me coming up the stairs. By now she’s old enough to know that we’re not going to beat her, so she’s pretty much got the run of the place.

So preorder it. And then come back here so we can talk about it. Because I gave my brother my signed copy I got at BEA (to share the love), and the little punk hasn’t read it yet. He keeps giving excuses like he started a new job and moved and stuff. Whatever.

This book will:

-make you laugh out loud. warning: drinking while reading may cause said beverage to fly from your nostrils.


Other reviews:

Beth Fish Reads

The Book Garden (who also compares humor to Sedaris)

Leeswammes’ Blog (who also compares it to Franzen!)