In The Darlings, former financial analyst Cristina Alger explores the strength of family loyalty within the context of high society and high finance and lightly touches upon the motivations of those that turn a blind eye to the excesses of Wall Street.
The Darlings are the toast of Manhattan high society. Carter Darling, the patriarch of the clan, leads one of the most successful firms on Wall Street. His daughters, Lily and Merrill, are both beautiful and successful in their spheres of influence and have married well. As the financial crisis of 2008 sweeps through the world of high finance, Merrill’s husband Paul is given a job as Carter’s general counsel. New to the job and to the nuances of working within a powerful family, Paul is thrown into the maelstrom of recriminations following the suicide an influential fund manager whose fortunes control those of Carter Darling and all he holds dear.
Alger sets a lively pace throughout the novel, even when describing what would normally be dry financial transactions. She also does a laudable job of juggling a wide and varied cast of characters, taking on multiple points of view and shifting well from one to another. The one flaw in this comes in that there are so many characters and so many different sets of eyes that it is hard to sympathize greatly with any one protagonist. All are likeable and well-drawn but elicit no more sympathy than that which generally comes from witnessing bad things happen to nice people. One doesn’t get into the skin of any one character and travel a mile in their shoes–all of the action and emotional impact occurs at a step distant.
Nevertheless, The Darlings is a sharp, well-written, page-turner of a novel. It can’t be described as deep exploration of character but it is certainly a story well-told.