"Sponsored" Review- The Darlings

If you've been a reader for long you know that I don't do typical book blog reviews i.e. a post per book (instead I generally do a monthly round up). Well, the kind folks at Penguin sent me The Darlings by Cristina Alger, so I figured I owed them more than the usual tiny snippet. Bottom line- the only time this will actually happen is when someone fancy sends me something. Despite the "corporate connection" I will, as always, be absolutely honest.

Alrighty then. 

The Darlings, Cristina Alger's first novel, is about the downfall of the elite Manhattan Darling family during the market disaster of 2008. The story is apparently going to become a show on Bravo at some point, too. Here's what I liked... and what I didn't:

- If you like the stock market, financial scandals, or were interested in Bernie Madoff then you'll appreciate the economic foundation that this book is built on. It is obvious that Alger is knowledgeable in this area- she gets a bit technical at times (see below). Alger is a graduate of Harvard and NYU- the girl knows her shit.
- Reading about the horrors of the Dow plummeting and people losing everything actually made me feel better about our current economy. Things used to be much, much worse and sometimes a little bit of perspective on how we've progressed is refreshing.
- Sometimes it can be fun to read about the extremely wealthy- the clothes, the galas, the connections. Algers isn't subtle in her description of the Darlings and their friends- they are filthy stinking rich. But beneath these lavish lifestyles lays the universal truth that "money can't buy happiness." At the end of the day your money won't save you, and it can be lost much, much more quickly than it was made.
- There are some  interesting characters, that I actually wished I had gotten to know more about. For example, the protagonist Paul, a man who finds himself unknowingly involved in the family scandal due to the job he took with his father-in-law, Carter Darling. Paul's wife, Merrill, Carter himself, and his wife Ines, end up beating the quite large pack of characters Algers includes.
- The plot itself is intriguing- it reads fast and the suspense will keep you moving, despite the flaws. Algers brings the reader into a world and makes them privy to information that even those involved with the scandal aren't aware of.
- Setting the novel during Thanksgiving weekend was a pretty genius idea; the markets are closed, people are out of reach, and press' reaction over news stories can be delayed. This time of the year is also quintessentially family-driven, a critical component to Alger's story. The family is brought together, but they are also driven apart.

- There are way too many similes and metaphors- a gross reliance on them, in fact. I started counting in the beginning but gave up. 
- At times I felt that Algers was trying to do too much in terms of her characters. There were too many of them; I would have much preferred her to focus on about half as many but do it better, with more depth. I understand that she was trying to create depth and backstory, but the section on Lily and Adrian (Carter's other daughter) were unnecessary, as were a few of the other characters. Do less, and do less better.
- I can absolutely see the financial aspects turning people away from this book. I consider myself to have a slightly above average understanding of the market and what happened on Wall Street during the beginning of the recession, but even I at times was a little confused.
- The ending should not have included the epilogue. Alger needed to trust her reader to come to conclusions on their own. 

All in all, I found this an entertaining read. I think that it was a bit rough around the edges, something that can be attributed to Alger's greenness. I think she does have potential, though, and she offers something that isn't commonly seen in young, attractive women writers- she's actually knowledgeable about something other than dating, makeup, and working as an assistant. We'll see what she comes up with next. 

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