René is 25 and has lived his whole life in a liberal elite manhattan bubble, growing up in the classically classy aspiring MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens with parents who love him but gently tease each other about their own privilege. He has come of age in the golden years of Obama and now as they are closing his aspiration to make documentaries that will challenge and entertain seems more important than ever.
He wants to do an expose on his neighbours, Nero Golden and his three adult children dropped into the grandest house in the Gardens out of nowhere with assumed names and a past in a city they would not talk about. They arrived just after Obama’s inauguration and quickly established themselves at the apex of New York society.
He chronicles the undoing of the house of Golden: the high life of money, of art and fashion, a sibling quarrel, an unexpected metamorphosis, the arrival of a beautiful woman, a tragedy from their homeland and the guilt surrounding it that they can never escape. But through it René moves from impartial observer to pivotal pawn and risks losing everything himself.
There is a lot in this novel, and my abiding impression of it is that it is written by a much younger man than Salman Rushdie. He captures the voice and sensibilities of millennial without condescension or caricature. The book is full of film and pop culture references and with these Rushdie comes close to his signature magic realism, he talks about Donald Trump as the green haired Joker of Gotham City so convincingly I wondered if I’d slipped into a parallel universe!
As it’s told from first person there is unavoidably an imbalance between the depth of characterisation of René and the rest of the cast. Still they’re an interesting bunch and they’re foibles are treated with sensitivity. Nero himself is almost the perfect godfather-in-exile, the ultimate patriarch whose strength and weakness is his family.
the writing is masterful and I enjoyed it from the start to the finish, however it was missing some little something or other so I can’t quite give it full marks.
NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.