"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Darlings by Cristina Alger

Why oh why isn't there a 1/2 star rating option?!? The Darlings is a 2. And a 3. A 2.5 would have been perfect. I'm not terribly well versed in the world of investment banking. Talk of hedge funds renders me glassy eyed. I wish that weren't the case. I wish I were a financial wizard and fully understood the nuances of the markets and the players involved but I don't. I haven't been living under a rock so I understand the financial crime basics but since this isn't a topic of particular interest for me, it isn't likely that I would have chosen to purchase this book of my own volition. I was given the opportunity to read this by the Penguin Publishing Group and I'm grateful that they bothered to send me a copy because it was a generally positive experience. Plus, I LOVE getting mail that says Penguin Publishing on it, so there's that... 

What I loved: 
Knowing a little about many of the auxiliary characters. 
Liking the characters enough to want to know more about them. 
The family element. 
The clear, cut-to-the-chase writing style. 

What I didn't adore: 
Not knowing enough about the characters-all of them. You get a taste of a lot of very interesting people and then they're gone. That's it. They just disappear and then you never hear any more about them. You get a sneak peek into their family and then, snap! They're gone. I still want to know what happened with Sol's secretary and her oldest son. I want to know about Alexa. And David. And the guy who was initially discouraged from investigating. And I want to know what Paul is thinking after the ^%$& hits the fan! There are multiple chapters, all from Paul's point of view, leading up to the pinnacle of the disaster. The synapsis of the book says that Paul has to decide where his loyalties lie. This leads me to believe that I will read a lot about Paul and his decision and the results of that decision. But no. Paul has his multi-chapter run in the beginning and then-nothing. The beat goes on and we never hear what he thinks, feels, or even what he physically does. Before the disaster you even know when he wishes he had his scarf. 
Ultimately anticlimactic. There is a lot of build up then once the investigation starts it is a matter of about 30 pages and it's all over. 

The idea is there and the characters are there, with all their messy, lovely, humanness. This book could have fleshed out into a family's epic tale of financial evolution from the top to the bottom but it's cut short and left only half explored. I was left feeling like it was rushed, written against a deadline. It almost seems like writing this book was not a passionate undertaking for Alger but more a list item: "It would be cool to write a book someday. O.K., did that, check." 

Cristina Alger is certainly talented but if she is passionate, about either the subject or her current craft, it didn't translate in The Darlings.

You will find an official plot line description at: 

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