Louis Auchincloss is writing here at the top of his remarkable powers as an observer of contemporary America. The Partners is a group portrait of men — and women in what is mostly a man's world — whose common bond is their work. Within that bond each one pursues different answers to the search for money, power, love, revenge, or a meaning in life. They occupy the chief seats of influence, but there are always pressures threatening to unseat them. An ambitious member can upset the balance in a bold bid for power, a young associate can do it by a foolish mistake, and the clients are susceptible to many kinds of discontent or the deft attractions of a rival firm.The Partners is a masterful characterization of lawyers and of the people in whose service they gain riches and prestige. It is a story of the small but distinguished New York firm of Shepard, Putney and Cox, and particularly of one of the senior partners, Beekman Ehninger. When he was younger, Beeky had worked out a reorganization that saved his firm from decline. Son of a rich mother and a socially ambitious father, he succeeded in making a career of his own within the narrow upper levels of the law. Now he and his colleagues, such as Burrill Hume, the trusts-and-estates lawyer, again face the question of whether they can survive on their own in the relentless heat of competition or must join forces with a different breed — new, tough, but undeniably successful. Time and change: these are the forces with which the man of morals must strike a bargain in an amoral world. Every day his bargaining position is slightly different. In this sense the story of one profession today becomes timeless. The Partners is a portrait done with consummate skill, one to rivet the eye and the mind.
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Loved this book! Interesting stories revolving around a major NYC law firm and the in-house politics and family struggles the various members of the firm experience. All stories are separate, but never stray far from the behind-the-scenes conscience of the firm, Beeky. A fascinating glimpse of life in a major firm, the social responsibilities expected, the stress on families of partners and the moral dilemmas that continually barrage those doing the work. I have always liked the Auchincloss style and personal insight he has from his own life spent in a major law firm. Great detailed descriptions of these characters and what makes them tick, think, and react to what is going on around them, as well as the history that brought them to the present. And with that background context, we see they are almost powerless to avoid the ultimate conclusion of each story, something that would not have been obvious at all otherwise. Still a bunch more of Auchincloss to go and i cannot wait!more
For such an apparently conservative writer, Auchincloss is actually a closeted radical, one of the very rare writers who takes seriously the "business lives" of his characters: that part of life that, in truth, occupies the majority of the time, interest and energy of the average middle-class American; although, of course, the middle class is hardly the focus of Auchincloss' careful gaze, unless one considers Wall Street lawyers members of the middle class. In this era of billionaire investment bankers, perhaps that's true. But 35 years ago, these characters would certainly have been considered denizens of the "great world". What I like best about Auchincloss is the special tone (or perhaps point of view) he employs in his fictions. There is always a certain coolness behind the avuncular pose: a detachment that leaves you pleasurably uncertain as to the precise degree of irony being employed. What, for instance, is the valence of the word "possibly" in the following sentence: "In his smiling, wheedling, sourly breathing manner, as he moved closer to his interlocutor than the latter could possibly want, he managed to imply, with his hoarse, gasping, almost noiseless laugh, that he was mocking himself quite as much as his listener." However, there are signs of haste and inattention, not surprisingly; considering Auchincloss was engaged in a full-time law practice of his own while he wrote all these novels and tales.more