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Hardcover Last of the Old Guard Book

ISBN: 0547152752

ISBN13: 9780547152752

Last of the Old Guard

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

The American master Louis Auchincloss offers an intimate look behind the closed doors of a prominent New York law firm. Nearing the end of his days, Adrian Suydam, half the partnership of the law firm of Suydam & Saunders, reflects on his lifelong friendship and business relationship with Ernest Saunders, a tragic and complicated man incapable of properly loving anyone. In this perceptive novel, set against the backdrop of old New York, Auchincloss...

Customer Reviews

3 ratings

Old New York

Auchincloss is splendid as always! He never has a word out of place, his every book is a perfect little package.

Like A Personal Invite Into The Author's Drawing Room...

As a rule, I am not interested in the writing of lawyers or writing about lawyers, but I found this book thoroughly enjoyable. It felt so 'personal' that I wondered how much of the author's life was intertwined into it. That's the mark of good fiction. The story felt so 'real' I often felt like the author was in a chair next to me, telling the tale. Auchincloss knows the subject which he speaks, he's one of the last of the faded "WASP" elite that pretty much now only a memory in NY society. The only thing I found wanting, was the seeming lack of self reflection of some of the more self destructive tendencies of that elite, including a naive misguided altruism and misplaced trust. I almost wanted to ask the character, is it now a better place for us? and will the 'new elite' be as kind? So far the answer is a resounding no. But to ask would be to mis-understand the book; It's a story of a character, not a society.

Lawyers and friends

Louis Auchincloss is best known for his writings of a more genteel age, usually focusing on the early part of the twentieth century. And he sticks to that formula in "Last of the Old Guard," a bittersweet little novel about the lifelong friendship between two very dissimilar lawyers. Along the way he addresses the many troubles and trials that they face -- as husbands, fathers and lawyers -- but the whole story is seen as a wistful flashback. With the death of his parter Ernest Saunders, Adrian Suydam looks back on their intertwined lives -- born and educated in privileged surroundings, they met and became fast friends in college. And upon graduating, each man married a very different wife and joined forces in a law firm of their own -- which soon became a legendary force in Old New York. But Ernest's devotion to his firm left him incapable of devoting much love to anyone, except the idolized son tragically killed in World War I. With his softer heart, Adrian tries to navigate many problems -- his wife's dislike of Ernest, treacherous associates, flaky daughters, and a rapidly changing society. But his friendship with Ernest holds out against everything. There aren't a lot of stories about fraternal love between friends -- Auchincloss acidly observes that usually such friendships are interpreted as being about sex. But he does a good job with that difficult subject, revealing gradually how the "old guard" world of Gilded Age New York has changed over time -- both in good and bad ways. Auchincloss also has the dignified, slightly distant prose of that bygone age. It's full of refined dialogue and reflection -- even the death of a beloved child is handled with a grave dignity. And since this style doesn't lend itself well to character development, many chapters are seen through letters, memos and other papers that Adrian reads after Ernest's death. Framing the partners' friendship are plenty of signs of the changing times (female lawyers), as well as ethical dilemmas that mark their way -- both large (the immigrant steel-workers and their rotten treatment) and small (the divorce of Ernest's immature ne'er-do-well daughter from a blatantly unfaithful husband... who happens to work for Ernest). The one thing that stuck out was the constant name-dropping of Theodore Roosevelt. I'm not sure why -- he had little bearing on the book -- but it became rather disruptive. But the bond between Adrian and Ernest is handled well, with delicacy and no theatrical gestures. They fit together well because they're complete opposites that complement each other, while also sharing mutual respect and trust. And although Ernest's self-admitted chilliness towards others can make him seem like a jerk at times, the final meeting with Adrian is deeply poignant. "Last of the Old Guard" is a glimpse into the lives of two very dissimilar men from a very different age -- and after his disastrous previous novel, Louis Auchincloss recaptures a bittersweet magic.
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