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.