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The Darlings : A Novel

Average Rating:(3.6)out of 5 stars
Walmart # 570583120
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Drawing on her unique insider's perspective, Alger offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York societyNand a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions that powerfully echoes Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children" and reads like a fictional "Too Big to Fail."

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Drawing on her unique insider's perspective, Alger offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York societyNand a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions that powerfully echoes Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children" and reads like a fictional "Too Big to Fail."A Bonfire of the Vanities for our times, by an author who “knows her way around 21st-century wealth and power” (The Wall Street Journal).

Since he married Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to all the luxuries of Park Avenue. But a tragic event is about to catapult the Darling family into the middle of a massive financial investigation and a red-hot scandal. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties really lie.

Debut novelist Cristina Alger is a former analyst at Goldman Sachs, an attorney, and the daughter of a Wall Street financier. Drawing on her unique insider's perspective, Alger gives us an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society—and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions that powerfully echoes Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children and reads like a fictional Too Big to Fail.


Penguin Publishing Group
Book Format
Original Languages
Number of Pages
Cristina Alger
Publication Date
December, 2012
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.45 x 5.51 x 0.78 Inches

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(3.6)out of 5 stars
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1-5 of 11 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

My thoughts: Going int...

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

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

In his experience, it...

"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.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Written by a former an...

Written by a former analyst at Goldman Sachs, this novel portrays the wealthy society and the financial shenanigans that brought about the crisis on Wall St. She does this very well, as I have to say that I really did not like any of these characters at all, except for Paul. He finds himself part of the family and working for his father in law and must figure out where his loyalties lie. A twist at the end, well at least I didn't expect it. The games the rich play, the pressures and the stress, all for the sake of money. This is based on an ARC provided by the publisher.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

I read this novel expe...

I read this novel expecting it to be a take on the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. To a certain extent it was, being about a family whose work and family lives were entangled in a financial scandal. Carter Darling employed both of his sons-in-laws, one of whom was just along for the ride and one, Paul, who just came aboard after losing his job as an attorney at the beginning of the recession. Not many of the wealthy characters are very likable in this book, except for Paul and Merrill. Although Carter came from a working-class background, he was now one of the 1%ers. He spoiled his wife and daughters, and lived a lifestyle to which most people cannot relate. While reading this book, I thought that there were too many tangential characters. They didn't seem to be moving the story along, I didn't know why they were there. By the end of the story, Alger had put all of the pieces of the puzzle together so cleverly I had to admire her skill. Every character leads to something important. I also enjoyed her descriptions of characters, like this one: "Theresa Frankel was a middle-aged woman who looked as though she resided permanently at the intersection of boredom and disinterest." One sentence and you knew immediately who Teresa was. The Darlings is a well-crafted story, and even if you don't like most of the characters, you'll want to see where this story is going. And Alger throws in a twist at the end that is a game-changer.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Usually when I get an ...

Usually when I get an audio, I like to listen to the first 20-30 minutes (sort of like leafing through a book) to get a feel for the cadence, the characters, and a gist of the plot. At the 2 1/2 hour point, I had to force myself to turn off the audio so I could at least have a human conversation at the dinner table! I was hooked from the beginning. I spent the next day doing a lot of driving, swimming, and just plain lazy listening to this one. I literally could not stop! Although I thought at first this might be a re-hash of the same kind of story I'd read last year by Stephanie Madoff Mack recounting her tribulations being Bernie Madoff's daughter-in-law, this did not turn out to be anything like that. What Alger has done is to give us a psychological, edge of the seat "who's going to screw whom" mystery! The setting is pure New York upper-crust, high society glitz. It has it all--the designer clothes, expensive jewels, flashy cars, doormen, weekend homes in the Hamptons, weekday co-ops in town, poorly paid minions, overworked secretaries, society matrons: a good glimpse into the world of the 1%. The characters will be loved by some, detested by many others. The story is familiar to anyone who has read a newspaper or listened to a talk show in the last decade. But the marvelous evil plot twists have the reader clinging to every page, waiting to see how (or whether) the principal character is able to emerge a free man after he becomes unwittingly enmeshed in the inevitable back-stabbing, shark infested waters of Wall Street hedge fund managers and their uber expensive lawyers. Alger blind-sides us with a fantastic and unexpected ending (she had me pumping my fist and yelling YES!) and then ties up the story with an epilogue to satisfy our "But what about?s" It is an altogether satisfying read that is especially well-suited to the audio format, and the sonorous tones of Jonathan Fried's narration.

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