Review: The Darlings, by Cristina Alger, plus the giveaway winner!

The Darlings
by Cristina Alger
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
February 20, 2012
$26.95 (hc) /$12.99 (epub)
New this month from Viking, Cristina Alger's debut novel The Darlings has been marketed as one of the first novels about the financial crisis of Fall 2008. The Darlings are among the wealthier families in New York - a penthouse in the city, a home in East Long Island - and patriarch Carter is head of an affluent hedge fund that, as it turns out, has been operating with peak performance over the last two decades thanks to a Ponzi scheme run by a family friend. And when that friend takes a dive into the Hudson right before Thanksgiving, Carter and his family are tossed into whirlwind crisis that can only end in tears and betrayal.

Ms. Alger is a lawyer and former analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., someone with a keen and definitive knowledge of the financial world. That knowledge lends itself well to the plot, but less so to the characters. Carter's daughter Merrill and her husband Paul are arguably the main characters and are among the most sympathetic of those involved, but (as with any very rich, very influential family) the Darlings touch many lives, and all of them (it seems) are in this book.

Carter's lawyer Sol explains that, when Carter is indicted, the media will make people hate him by showing photos of their homes, their daughters on horses, etc. They've lived privileged lives and, with the fallout from the discovery of the fraud, they will appear more selfish than they truly are. Alger's novel does the same disservice to the characters - there's a little too much backstory in some places (gratuitous explanations of rich people who came from nothing and now have everything), and some of the minor characters come across as inconsistent and duplicitous when they're actually not, but at under 350 pages the time frame of the novel (one very quick week) is decidedly well-managed.

And though, as I say, there may be too many characters (I think the other Darling daughter and her husband Adrian could have not existed, along with the nonsense about Carter's affair with another woman) I will say that Press editor Duncan and his assistant Marina are probably the most interesting of the minor characters - they are definitely the silver lining on this great big cloud of a novel.


This was a week later than anticipated...sorry about that. 

Thanks to the folks at Viking we had a giveaway for a new copy of this novel. I'm happy to announce that the winner is:

Mary Ann L.

Congratulations! Your copy should be on it's way to you shortly.


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