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Paperback The Embezzler Book

ISBN: 0395298458

ISBN13: 9780395298459

The Embezzler

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. The Embezzler, first written in 1966, uses conflicting narrative voices and viewpoints to illuminate the fabled dimensions of American economic history as it was then understood. Inspired by the...

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

A look at a different side of snobbery

The Embezzler comes from a time when Americans still remembered the great depression and the old-money blue-bloods hadn't entirely released their hold on New York. Auchincloss captures their views of themselves more realistically than a lot of writers probably have done. That, if no other reason, probably makes this book a worthy expenditure of time.However, Embezzler is also a study in the tension between honor of the old-time variety, loyalty, and gratitude (or the lack of those).Prime, member of a poor-relations line of wealth meets Rex Geer, a minister's son with a promising future, struggling through Harvard early in the century. Geer is on the brink of needing to drop out of school. Prime, before they become friends, sympathizes enough to visit a key authority and arrange for Geer to continue his education. He brings Geer to his home many times for summer stays, to the dismay of his family and societal equals, introducing him to the people who eventually give Geer the openings necessary to his future.Late in his life and many years after his Wall Street disgrace and prison, Prime observes, "today I'd be snubbed by Rex Geer who'd probably be a haberdasher in Jersey City if it weren't for me".Thanks to interventions in his life by Prime and thanks also to Geer's own talent and initiative, Geer becomes one of the most financially powerful men of the time.Midway through the depression and at the peak of his career Prime secures loans against his sinking fortunes, using a foundation's resources he's responsible for illegally to stay afloat. As the stocks creep further downward he finds himself on the brink of discovery. He goes to Geer (who's meanwhile having a long-term affair with Prime's wife)in hopes of a loan. Geer refuses in the name of honor and justice, leaving his former friend ruined, imprisoned, shunned by his class. Geer's testimony becomes a factor in Prime's conviction and imprisonment.The book is a great illustration of human perspective and frailty, the story told from the three key viewpoints of Prime, Geer, and Prime's wife. The spoiled playboy old-family Prime, flawed in many ways, understands compassion and honor at a personal level and lives by it. Geer, of poor-class antecedents understands honor societally and legally and shows little grasp of those other qualities in his behavior.This book has been out of print for a long while, but I recommend it.

A fine, enjoyable read

This novel, one of Auchincloss's best and from his prime period, is the life story of ill-fated Guy Prime, who was born into a minor blueblooded branch of New York society, enjoyed a gilded youth, eventually earned lasting ignominy when his embezzlements were revealed, resulting in his indictment, trial, Congressional hearing (it's 1936 and he is made a poster boy for Wall Street corruption by the New Deal), and imprisonment, and spent the nondescript remainder of his life in Panama isolated from all his family, friends, and associates, waiting to die. He is an intriguing, complex character, by no means all bad, and his story is told by three narrators: himself, his best friend (and eventual nemesis), and his wife. This multiple-narrator technique, "surrounding" the central character from a Rasohomon-like multiplicity of differing perspectives, had been successfully employed by Auchincloss in his most famous novel, The Rector of Justin (1964), the novel immediately preceding this one, and it works effectively here too. The book is well written, the right length, and compulsively readable. I first read it when it came out in 1966, have just re-read it, and find that it holds up quite well.
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