Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Book Notes: The Emperor's Children

Hmmmmmm . . . . I am about halfway through The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud and what had been a dawning recognition is now glaring in my mind: This book is a re-written, Americanized version of Iris Murdoch's 1970-ish novel, A Fairly Honourable Defeat. At first, I noted that the pompous patriarch character was writing a major book on philosophy, just like the patriarch in AFHD. Then the the sinister, manipulative character struck me as being just like the Bad Guy in Murdoch's novel. After that, many other parallels fell into place: two gay couples struggling with an unequal relationship, two floundering college dropouts, two stalwart matrons, etc. This must be intentional. The parallels are too close. Messud even calls one of the characters Julius, like the evil manipulator in AFHD. I am going to have to Google this and try to learn the back story.


  1. I'm dying to know the explanation. I have been collecting all of Murdoch's novels through Bookmooch or other inexpensive means as they are listed in Nancy Pearl's Book Lust as must reads. I loved the first three that I've read, and will get around to them all eventually. I can't imagine why anyone would rewrite something by her. You are an observant reader. I look forward to your sleuthing out the answer.

  2. I finished Emperor's Children and still think she copied A Fairly Honourable Defeat. The parallels goe all the way through. But then Messud sticks 9/11 into her book, near the end, and there was nothing like that in Murdoch's book.

    The more I think about it, though, the 9/11 part didn't really do anything. It affected the character's actions, but not the fundamentals of the plot -- if that makes sense.

    I am still comtemplating this mystery because I am fascinated by it. Other than general comparisons of Messud's writing to Murdoch's, I found nothing in the blogosphere.

    I put a hold on Murdoch's book from the library because my copy is packed for moving. Once I get it, I am going to do some closer analysis.


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