Skip to main content

The Heirs by Susan Rieger


Novelist Susan Rieger is a graduate of Columbia Law School. She served as Dean of one of Yale University's residential colleges and as Associate Provost at Columbia University.  Her 2014 debut novel, The Divorce Papers, about the progression of one woman's divorce and another woman's legal career, is told in a series of personal and professional snippets rather than in a more typical linear narrative format. It is clever, engaging, enjoyable and often very funny.

Rieger's new novel, The Heirs is different in tone and in theme from The Divorce Papers.  Instead of divorce, we have a 300-page upper class family saga.  Rupert Falkes, a British orphan who attends Cambridge University on a scholarship and comes to America in search of a new life, graduates from Yale Law School and becomes a highly-regarded lawyer at one of New York's most prestigious law firms. Rupert's wife Eleanor comes from "that class of New Yorker whose bloodlines were traced in the manner of racehorses."  Eleanor and Rupert raise five sons on Manhattan's Upper West Side: Harry, a lawyer; Will, a Hollywood agent; Sam, a medical researcher; Jack, a genius musician; and Tom, a federal prosecutor. All five attend Princeton. In the aftermath of Rupert's death, his wife and his sons learn that Rupert may or may not have left behind a mistress and two illegitimate sons. This news throws the family into disarray, as each member of the clan responds differently to the allegations.

Several reviewers have commented that the book has the feel and tone of an Edith Wharton novel set in the 21st century. The story of Rupert, Eleanor and the "Five Famous, Fierce, Forceful, Faithful, Fabled, Fortunate, Fearless Falkeses" is told with humor, precision and grace.  Rieger's prose made me like these people.  I found myself wishing that I were part of the family's extended clan, or at the very least, that I knew them a little.

"If any of them was late for dinner -- dinner was a command performance most nights, seven o'clock with five minutes' grace, like the theatre -- he had a cheese sandwich in the kitchen. Once, there was a palace revolution. They all tripped in at seven thirty. They found the dinner table cleared. Eleanor was in the kitchen putting out the ingredients for cheese sandwiches on the counter. 'See you later,' she said. She and Rupert went downstairs to the Cafe. They next night she served cheese sandwiches for dinner. 'If you're going to be late,' she said, 'I don't see the point of serving a proper dinner.' The revolution was suppressed." (p.141)

Ultimately, The Heirs is about how impossible it is to know everything about another person, no matter how close you have been to that person, and in a way, perhaps that's for the best. At one point, in speaking about her son Harry, Eleanor notes that "he's re-writing his entire life up until yesterday." The novel does the same for its readers, re-writing our understanding of the past and in so doing, shifting the way we feel about each member of the Falkes family. There is love, there is money, there is sex.  But there is also a close-knit group of people shaken by death.  And in the writing, there is charm and wit. As Kirkus notes in its starred review, "just in time for poolside reading, this elegant novel wears its intelligence lightly."




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Welcome to North Main Book Notes

Welcome to North Main Book Notes, the new Readers Advisory blog of Wallingford Public Library. Posts on this blog will cover a wide range of reading and reading-related interests, from new books to favorite books to trending or popular books, all across a wide range of genres and categories. Librarians from across WPL departments will contribute to the blog, and we encourage patrons to let us know what they would like to see posted here.  We're excited to have this new way to share our love of books and reading with our patrons!

North Main Book Nook Staff Picks Display

In this second blog post describing the themed displays in the North Main Book Nook, we turn to the Staff Picks display.  Unlike the earlier "Staff Favorites" display which used to be located between the main computer area and the teen area, and which was filled by all Wallingford Public Library staff members as the mood struck, this Staff Picks display is filled with books chosen by four specific WPL staffers on a rotating three-month basis.  


Each of the four is responsible for keeping one quadrant of the octagonal display fully stocked with reading favorites.  Here is a blog message from Programming Librarian Julie Rio, one of the four library staffers in the current Staff Picks rotation:
Greetings and Salutations! My name is JulieRio and I am the Adult Programming and Community Services Librarian at the Wallingford Public Library. During this quarter of the year, I am one of the staff members whose favorite books are being highlighted in the Staff Picks display in the L…

A Sense of Place

Teresa Kristan remembers when the Wallingford Public Library was located down the block, where the Library Wine Bar and Bistro now holds pride of place at 60 North Main Street.  She remembers because she worked there and because her grandfather was a custodian for the library several decades ago. Teresa is an ardent baseball fan, so summer is an especially good time for her. She is both a Circulation Librarian and a Reference Librarian at the library, and she is one of the four library staff members currently stocking the Staff Picks display in the North Main Book Nook. Teresa's bio on the Staff Picks display includes this sentence: "If I could have read in the living womb, I would've, but the light was bad." She has a lot to say about books and reading, and she shares some thoughts below:

I was thinking about a different sense of place that I get when I read, not where the book or article is set, but where I am while I'm reading it.

There's a sweet children…