[Even her discarded stockings, still carrying from yesterday the shape of her solid limbs, appeared outlined in light, luminous. Her hands and her hair, a grayed cloud, had carried up from the kitchen the smell of coffee, and the vents at her ankles pushed a warm wind around the floor. In spite of Bootie, in spite, in spite, in this moment at least, she felt happy: she was not too old to love even the snow.]

A literary agent friend once told me that Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children is the “kind of book she breathes for.” As eloquent as that is, it isn’t overstating it. If only we could all write half as well.