fall of princes book coverReviewed by Alisha Churbe

In Robert Goolrick’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Fall of Princes, Rooney, the mostly unnamed narrator is in his early-twenties when he hits Wall Street. In a split second he begins making insane amounts of money quicker than he can spend it. With lavish parties, vacations, women, houses in the Hamptons, drugs and countless other frivolous purchases, he builds himself a house of cards. He knows, very clearly understands, that it will disappear as quick as it appeared.

During the high times, the events feel surreal, but they capture the pace of 1980s Wall Street in its essence. In the thick of it, Rooney seems unshaken by the strangeness of it all and continues to participate. He sees those around him suffer from the excesses and fall from the tiptops of success, some to the very, very bottom.

The character and his life, his desires and his “hobbies” are all secretive and hidden – some of them even forbidden. But even when you think he’s the next victim, and the money is wildly flowing, he gets up everyday to a crisp shirt and impeccably polished shoes. That above all else, the pattern of it, the normal aspects within all of it – that is what drives this character more than the debauchery that awaits after the work is done.

When the bottom falls out, Rooney is in his mid-thirties, the money dries up, the excess caves in and reality is all that is left (along with a small apartment and a dose of loneliness), it is the regular and the mundane that drives Rooney. He eventually embraces his life in the small apartment in a shady part of town versus the lavish penthouse hotel suite. Granted it is the lack of money that forces him to accept what he has, but he also seems to embrace it when it finally happens. It’s not as if he realizes that it’s his last chance, but rather that it was his plan all along and he’s content. Rooney is surprised and feels a little guilty that he’s the one who made it through, while others were not as lucky. It’s here where the story turns real and we start to see what it truly means to be human.

The narration is feverish and frantic. It’s the type of story that pushes you through at a tense pace. It’s not the kind of story that takes your hand and meanders through a winding plot. The plot isn’t entirely chronological, the narrator takes care to tell you what he wants, when he wants. Goolrick’s recent book is a great read and very entertaining.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.