The Darlings: A Novel by Cristina Alger
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, ISBN 978-0670023271
February 16, 2012, 352 pages
It is Thanksgiving week 2008 and Wall Street is still reeling from the collapse of some it's largest and most successful financial institutions. Billionaire Carter Darlings, and the hedge fund he leads, is not unaffected but life as he and his family knows it goes on. Weekends at their house in the Hamptons, doormen to help with those packages at the Manhattan apartment, live-in help to deal with preparations for the holidays, chauffeured cars and access to private planes to fly one back from Aspen. But in very short order, with one apparent suicide, things take a very sharp turn for the worse. In the course of a week, their world will be forever changed.
Paul Ross, married to Darling daughter Merrill, has already suffer in the first round of financial upheavals, losing his job as an attorney for a firm that went under. He accepts another job, with some reservations, to head the legal team at his father-in-law's company, and considered himself pretty lucky. After all, those custom made shirts he has become used to fit so much nicer that the store bought ones..and you can always count on family, can't you? But when the suicide of a man who was both a family friend and the head of a company Darling's firm was a huge investor in turns the spotlight on the billionaire, is someone going to be looking for a scapegoat? Can you still count on family?
I will admit it, I love that HGTV show, Selling New York. It is like looking at some sort of other species, people who can afford $5..or $50..million for a 'place' in NY. You know you are hooked when you start thinking $2.5 million seems like a bargain. I mean, look at the view! And it has two bedrooms!
And that is the world that Alger gives us a glimpse into, one that it seems she and her family has some personal acquaintance with. It seems to me, that is the strength of this book. She knows that world and is able to make it, and the people who live there, real for the reader. While some of them turn out to be very bad people, who have done very bad things, they are also husbands and wives and parents and children, who motivations were not as simple as we might first think. How easy it becomes to look the other way, to deceive yourself. It is hard to make some of these people sympathetic, but to some degree almost all of them are, even if they belong in handcuffs and a jail cell. Without that, this could have just been a very sad, cynical book. Happily, we are left with just a tiny bit of hope about humanity.
And I will also admit that the glimpse behind the scenes of a billionaire's lifestyle is great fun. After this book though, you might not envy it quite as much as you did before reading it.
A good read, a timely subject and an entertaining and interesting first effort from Ms. Alger.
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.