Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: The Darlings & Giveaway

Summary: 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. -- Pamela Dorman

I am a pretty big fan of the Pamela Dorman imprint, so it probably goes without saying that I was very excited to receive THE DARLINGS by Cristina Alger. Ms. Dorman's books never seem to disappoint and I always know I'm in for some quality writing. THE DARLINGS was no exception. This fast-paced novel tells the story of a very wealthy New York family that finds themselves caught up in a huge financial scandal (think Bernie Madoff proportions) and the fallout associated with it.

After I read the first 50 or so pages of THE DARLINGS, I was pretty sure that I was going to love this novel. I could see that the author had an insider's view into high society as well as the financial world, and I thought she did a remarkable job of bringing both the setting and the characters to life. I continued to read and enjoy this book, and if I'm being entirely honest, I didn't want to put it down; however, I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to say that I loved it. I appreciated THE DARLINGS and I enjoyed it a great deal, but I don't think it will go down as one of my top reads of 2012.

Having said that, THE DARLINGS is a very good book and there are many excellent things about it. First and foremost, I thought the author did a wonderful job in creating and developing realistic characters. While this novel was about the 2008 financial crisis and the events leading up to it, the book focused on the characters and their motivations. Despite being a finance major in college, I don't enjoy reading about all the details that went into the 2008 financial crisis; and I thought the author gave just enough historical information to allow the reader to understand it without getting bogged down. She wisely chose, instead, to focus on how the various characters each dealt with the pending crisis.

And what a special cast of characters lived within the pages of THE DARLINGS. I was fascinated by so many of them, and I actually thought each and every one seemed as if they could really exist. What I found unique about reading this novel is that I was interested in what happened to each one. That's not to say that I necessarily liked every character because there were some that just oozed greed, but I was riveted to the book, nonetheless, to see their behavior as well as the consequences. I found it intriguing to see how certain individuals chose to play the blame game, while others followed their hearts no matter how difficult it would prove to be.

Another thing I really enjoyed about THE DARLINGS was the writing of the novel. I've already mentioned just how fantastic I thought the character development was, but I was also very impressed with Ms. Alger's writing style. I thought her prose and the dialogue was very polished, and I loved the pacing of the story. The book starts out with a bit of a mystery which definitely piqued my interest. And then the rest of the novel unfolded at an extremely fast pace. In fact, most of the story took place within just a few days.

I hesitate to even mention this, because I know it's most likely just me, but I did have a problem with the amount of characters in this novel. On the one hand, I liked seeing how this scandal affected everyone from the Darling patriarch, to his wife, to his daughters, and even to the secretaries/administrative assistants. I was impressed with how the author managed to incorporate all of their stories into this novel; and for the most part, I was able to keep everyone straight. However, the way the author only gave snippets of so many of the characters' lives also disappointed me a bit. For example, one of the early chapters in THE DARLINGS introduces the youngest Darling daughter and her husband. The reader gets a brief look at their relationship and their attempts to conceive, but for the rest of the novel, they rarely appear. I do understand what the author set out to do with all of the characters, but I was left wanting more information about some of their lives. As I said before, I'm sure it's just me...

THE DARLINGS would make an excellent discussion book for book club who appreciate analyzing characters. There isn't a formal reading guide posted yet, but here's the link

THE DARLINGS is a very intriguing book about how a crisis can affect a family who seemingly has it all. I definitely recommend it for fans of literary fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of this novel.

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of THE DARLINGS to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before March 7th at 11:59 p.m. ET. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a story ripped from the headlines! I love the Pamela Dorman imprint too.

Sandy Nawrot said...

This is the type of book that would probably give me insight into all the financial crap that has been going on for the last handful of years. It is my husband's favorite topic (ugh) so he might even be interested in reading it. I don't think I've read any Pamela Dorman imprints yet...going to have to look into it.

Laura said...

I hope I win, I hope I win, I hope I win!

Serena said...

This sounds like a good read, though I have not read any Pamela Dorman imprints yet. I like the large cast of characters...I'm a sucker for those. Thanks for the giveaway

Booksnyc said...

I always enjoy books that offer a peek into NY high society. Even thought I live in the same city, it really is another world.