This is the kind of novel that's intriguing, but difficult to embrace fully because there's a sense of distance. It falls into the general category of "social satire," which is one that I frequently enjoy, but since it usually requires third-person voice and perspective in order to work most effectively, it's harder to form much emotional connection with the characters.
This novel moves back and forth among five character viewpoints, and how their lives change, or don't, during 2001. It's a "prelude to 9/11" novel, in the way that The Good Life was an "aftermath of 9/11" story, although I found the characters in the latter novel better-developed and more appealing. None of "The Emperor's Children" was particularly likable, in my opinion, although they were never dull. They all made not-very-wise life choices during the year in question, which was entertaining, but would be frustrating if they were people you actually knew.
It's hard to define precisely what drives the book. There isn't much plot, and the characters don't experience much growth over the course of the novel. The writing itself is very good, if somewhat old-fashioned and overly complex in style, and I really did enjoy reading the novel. However, based on the high praise it received from reviewers, I expected - and wanted - to like it more than I did.