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The Darlings: A Novel by Cristina Alger

The Darlings: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Cristina Alger

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168None70,599 (3.57)1
Title:The Darlings: A Novel
Authors:Cristina Alger
Info:Pamela Dorman Books (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, Read in 2012
Tags:December 2012, New York City, Wall Street

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The Darlings by Cristina Alger




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I'm back, for the moment, fresh with impressions of The Darlings by Cristina Alger, a novel that is a rough equivalent of (Gossip Girl Edith Wharton - romantic drama) x Bernie Madoff Bonfire of the Vanities (Damages - murder schemes).

With the elite of the 1% and the financial tailspin of 2008 as subject matter, it would be easy to dismiss this novel as something to avoid, but you really shouldn't. It's a compelling read, driven by the interplay of characters not only from inside the upper echelons of Manhattan "royalty," but also by those lingering on the outside, less mired in glittery facades. Though I was put off by some of the characters in the beginning, many managed to grow on me. None perfect, but none completely villainous either. All human... Full review here. ( )
  zeteticat | Apr 2, 2013 |
Normally, I probably would not have picked this up, despite the lovely cover. When offered a review copy from Penguin, I figured why not, since I can be a bit narrow in my reading tastes these days (YA, YA, YA). Yet again, I am glad I did. The Darlings was a good read, even for one such as myself, who does not follow anything about the economy (more than my own bank account anyway).

The entirety of the story, with the exception of the epilogue, takes place within just one week. I love that Alger set it up this way, because it really drove home how quickly a situation can devolve to a snafu. On Monday, everything was good, and in a matter of days two companies were pretty much destroyed (or likely to be so).

Also, I want to give Alger props for managing to write sympathetic characters. I was definitely out to hate everyone in this book, because I can likely never (realistically) dream of having as much money as these guys would still have if the company bit it. I know life's not fair, but that does not mean I have to like it.

Actually, pretty much every character in here was at least a little bit likable. Certainly, by the end, there were some folks I was not a huge fan of, but I didn't hate anyone entirely (except maybe for Jane, who didn't get much screen time). I couldn't hate Carter because of how much he cared for his family, and because he apparently resembles Cary Grant. My favorite characters were definitely Paul and Merrill, who seem least messed up by the world they're living in. I would also really like to find out what happened to Marina.

The Darlings is a well-written story set in the economic landscape of post-9/11 New York City. Expect love, betrayal, and plot twists. Enjoy!
( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
This is the story of financial royalty, of insanely wealthy families made up entirely of lawyers, investors, bankers, and their quasi-philanthropic spouses. When a family friend of the Darlings commits suicide, all sorts of dirty laundry is unearthed, turning everyone's world on its head. This was a fascinating introduction to a world completely foreign to me. I found Merrill and Paul quite sympathetic, and while the ending fell flat, the rest of it was a good time. My only real complaint was how much difficulty I had keeping track of all the characters. I could have used an extra sentence or two at the beginning of each chapter to remind me how this person relates to the other people. But it was a decent piece of fiction all the same. ( )
  melydia | Jan 11, 2013 |
My thoughts: Going into this novel, I knew one thing: Bravo bought it and is creating a scripted series around it. I expected a soapy and fun tale of a Ponzi scheme gone wrong. I got that, but I was surprised how good Alger's writing was and how funny and astute her descriptions and observations were:
"He dressed as he did--Nantucket reds and bow ties and hunting jackets--without irony. He played lacrosse and drank his way through college, never doubting that a spot in the Morgan Stanley Investment Banking program would be available to him upon graduation (it was), and after that, a job at his wife's father's hedge fund."
During the first fifty pages, I was gleefully laughing at Alger's descriptions of these upper crusters:
"There's practically no floral budget," Ines declared when she had been named committee chairwoman. "We'll have to get creative. Opulence is out, anyway." She wasn't lamenting; Ines simply stated unpleasant facts with a sort of stoic fortitude."
Alger gets this world: she's a lawyer, a former analyst, and her father is a Wall Street financier, yet this novel has a delightful outsider feel because the reader sees this world through the eyes of Paul. He lives in this world, and his marriage to Merrill is a delightfully authentic love story, but he's from North Carolina and observes things as an outsider in many ways. Interestingly, so does Merrill. Unlike her sister Lily, who was never the smart one, Merrill enjoys her demanding job and has the ability (and braveness) to question the assumptions of the life in which she was raised.

As much as I laughed at the station of the rich in this novel, it was funny because Alger's humor is an intelligent and thoughtful one:
"The Darlings of new York." Ines loved to reference "the article" in casual conversation, and she spoke of Duncan Sander as though they were old friends. In truth, it wasn't really an article, but more of a blurb attached to a glossy photograph of Ines and Lily, inexplicably attired in white cocktail dresses, frolicking on the front lawn with Bacall, the family Weimaraner."
I'm not particularly drawn to financial thrillers, and while this novel qualifies, it is very much a character-based novel. There aren't easy answers or obvious bad people. Each character is well-crafted, complex, and driven by motivations that the reader can understand. Alger makes the complex world of financial accounting simple and fascinating.

Favorite passage: "Manhattan was a Darwinian environment: only the strongest survived. The weak, the nice, the naive, the ones who smiled at passersby on the sidewalk, all got weeded out. They would come to New York for a few years after college, rent shoebox apartments in Hell's Kitchen or Murray Hill, work at a bank or wait tables or audition for bit parts in off-off-Broadway productions. They would meet other twenty-somethings over after-work drinks at soulless bars in midtown; get laid; get their hearts broken. They would feel themselves becoming impatient, jaded, cynical, rude anxious, neurotic. They would give up. They would opt out. They would scurry back to their hometowns or to the suburbs or secondary cities like Boston or D.C. or Atlanta, before they had had a chance to breed."

The verdict: The Darlings is a delightful modern novel about life, love, loyalty and taking chances. Alger grounds her characters in the financial crisis and a Ponzi scheme, but ultimately this novel is a character-driven page-turner about how and why we make choices in difficult situations.

Rating: 5 out of 5 ( )
  nomadreader | Dec 28, 2012 |
“In his experience, it was usually the least assuming guy in the room who turned out to be the most interesting”

Paul Ross lost his job with Wall Street’s favourite law firm when US banks started going under, and when his hedge fund founding father-in-law Carter Darling offered him a job, he was grateful for the opportunity. As the banking crisis deepens and litigators’ knives sharpen, Paul finds himself in a terrible situation – to save himself or his wife’s family?

This impressive debut reminded me of a number of books I’ve read in the past year: Wendy Burden’s autobiography telling the life of the rich and famous, as well as Jennifer Egan’s (irritating) pastiche of interconnected lives, and to a lesser extent John Grisham’s tale of a lawyer who gets in far too deep. However, Alger does what I thought was impossible – she makes the banking crisis interesting and relevant to the average professional. The environment might be foreign to most of us, but the fear of firms going under, of emails being dredged, of lawyers stomping around is one that has simmered in most firms since 2008, and

I didn’t enjoy the way in which the tale was told – from constantly varying perspectives, but apart from a few characters who could have been painlessly excised, the device worked well, keeping suspense up. A few times I felt the suspense was overdone; a chapter would end with some minor revelation but obviously anonymous pronouns, an affair was revealed but the identity of the woman involved was hidden. Nevertheless, this is an impressive debut and I’m sure Alger’s writing will lose some of its overeagerness in time.

Alger conjures the opulent lives of New York’s richest without overdoing it – we have no doubt that these are unhappy people. Paul is overworked but happily married to a remarkably normal woman, annoyed with who he has become without really any way to change it. Carter is simultaneously hopeless and ebullient, lost in the web constructed by those he trusts.

A riveting and impressive debut, with a bit of room for improvement. ( )
  readingwithtea | May 26, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670023272, Hardcover)

A sophisticated page-turner about a wealthy New York family embroiled in a financial scandal with cataclysmic consequences.

Now that he's married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries: a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits. When Paul loses his job, Carter offers him the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Paul accepts the position.

But Paul's luck is about to shift: a tragic event catapults the Darling family into the media spotlight, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot scandal with enormous implications for everyone involved. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties lie-will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs?

Cristina Alger's glittering debut novel interweaves the narratives of the Darling family, two eager SEC attorneys, and a team of journalists all racing to uncover-or cover up-the truth. With echoes of a fictional Too Big to Fail and the novels of Dominick Dunne, The Darlings offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society-a world seldom seen by outsiders-and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Paul Ross accepts a job working on the legal team for his billionaire father-in-law's hedge fund and must determine where his loyalties lie when a scandal and a regulatory investigation threaten the family business.

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