Beginning Discussion – The Emperor’s Children

Here are a couple questions to get us started…

  1. At the novel’s onset, most of the characters are outside New York: Danielle in Australia, pursuing an idea for a story and finding someone to have a crush on; Marina at her parents’ summer house in Stockbridge, accompanied by Julius; and Bootie in his mother’s house in upstate New York. Why might Messud have chosen to begin in this manner? At what other points in the book do the characters leave the city and with what results?
  2. Messud introduces her characters through their environments: the womblike bathroom where Bootie soaks in hot water and serious literature; the Thwaites’ resplendent Central Park West apartment; and Danielle’s pristine, aesthetically climate-controlled studio. What do these spaces tell us about their occupants? Why might the author have used this rather old-fashioned way of ushering us into a novel set in 2001? Where else does she employ the techniques of an earlier age of literature?

(Questions courtesy of



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