Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's so disappointing the day has come so soon: THE HEIRS.

The HeirsThe Heirs by Susan Rieger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rupert Falkes is a wealthy, (somewhat) self-made man. A British orphan, he came to America, charmed his way into Yale Law, and made a career as a successful lawyer. He also married well: the beautiful (and rich) Eleanor Phipps. Together, the pair had five sons (Harry, Will, Sam, Jack, and Tom) and a happy life. When Rupert dies of cancer, a woman comes forward, claiming to have had two sons with him as well. The revelation causes different reactions among Eleanor and all the Falkes boys (now men), setting off a chain of reactions throughout the privileged family.

I'll be honest; I requested this ARC solely because I enjoyed Reiger's previous novel, The Divorce Papers, so much. I did not realize THE HEIRS was set in New York City and focused purely on a wealthy family--it seems like so many of these novels lately are tedious, and I can't find any connection to the characters.

And, truly, at first seemed it seemed like a boring look at a bunch of rich people. However, the novel becomes more interesting and nuanced as it progresses, with the viewpoints varying by chapter (and really within each chapter). The story is told by the people who were within Rupert Falkes' orbit. We hear from his wife, some of his sons, and past love interests of both Rupert and Eleanor. It turns out to be an effective way to tell the story, with bits and pieces of various stories coming out from the characters throughout the book, including about the possible illegitimate sons. (The focus is less on these two potential heirs than you would think, albeit their potential existence sort of kicks off the story.)

About halfway through, I found many of the characters to be petulant and annoying again--probably because we were in whiny middle son Sam's chapter. Truly, a lot of the people in this book are jerks. Sadly, Eleanor and Rupert's sons aren't always of the best character. Still, Eleanor is a fascinating person. She's strong, witty, and deep. She was definitely my favorite character in the novel, and any stories related to her were my favorite as well.

There is a lot of talk about money, class, and heritage in the novel. It's set in an earlier time period; it sometimes seems a bit much, but I suppose it's a realistic portrayal of wealthy New York in that era. Still, it is a lot of Jews versus Gentiles, rich versus poor, Yale versus Princeton.

I was a bit torn on this one for a bit, but I can't deny that I really enjoyed it, even if I didn't always like the characters. Besides, I was quite taken with Eleanor and even Anne (the wife of Eleanor's past love, Jim). Rieger is simply a good writer: her books are crisp and sharp. While on the surface the novel seems to be about a bunch of rich people, it also depicts the ties that bind us; there's meaning behind the sniping. There are touching moments in this novel, heartbreaking ones, and even funny ones. I didn't love it quite as much as THE DIVORCE PAPERS, and would probably rate as it 3.75 stars, but I'll round up to 4 stars here.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Librarything (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 05/23/2017.

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