Title: The Darlings
Author: Christina Alger
No. of Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller, Modern Fiction
“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?”
Thoughts: In Christina Alger’s “ripped from the headlines” debut novel, the reader is taken on a whirlwind experience of the life of the disgustingly rich and powerful at the height of the financial crisis. With multiple points of view, one can get full insight into everyone impacted by such scandals and politics involved. While the topic is undoubtedly timely, one cannot help but feel it is a bit too soon for such stories, especially when the main characters are in the top 1 percent of the nation.
The entire success of The Darlings hinges on the fact that the reader will like and feel sympathy for all involved, from Paul and Merrill to Carter and Ines down to the family lawyer and those involved at the SEC. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to feel sympathy towards any family members who are trying to save their fortunes and deflecting the blame on anyone but themselves. The entire situation is extremely disturbing and shows the inequalities that exist between the haves and the have-nots.
In addition to the story itself, what prevents The Darlings from being enjoyable is the fact that the story itself is told from too many points of view. Not only does one get Paul’s viewpoint, one also gets Merrill’s, Ines’, Carter’s, two people from the SEC, two journalists, and the lawyer’s as well. It becomes quite a chore keeping track of all of them, much less maintaining a steady and understandable storyline. One cannot get a good feel for any character, let alone keep track of who is telling what part of the story.
Just when one thinks it can get any worse, anyone familiar with the TV show, Dirty Sexy Money, will find one too many coincidences to believe that Ms. Alger was not heavily influenced by the series. From the family name – the Darlings, including a character named Tripp – to the family issues to the fact that the main character is the family general counsel – it all becomes a bit too much. In fact, having been a fan of the series, it was difficult to not think of one while reading the other.
Overall, The Darlings has too many strikes against it to be considered a decent read. It is still early in the economy’s recovery, and the number of people still struggling to maintain a decent standard of living in the aftermath of the financial crisis and mortgage upheaval is great. Combine that with a strikingly similar backstory to a show on television and fairly poor storytelling in the form of too many points of view, and The Darlings are less darling and more sickening. It is difficult to enjoy a story about the wealthy one percent, their involvement in Ponzi schemes to make more money, and their fear about losing everything when so many people continue to suffer.