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Prosperous Friends

2.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  235 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Described by John Ashbery as “pared down but rich, dense, fevered, exactly right and even eerily beautiful,” Christine Schutt’s prose has earned her comparisons to Emily Dickinson and Eudora Welty. In her new novel, Schutt delivers a pitch-perfect, timeless and original work on the spectacle of love.

Prosperous Friends follows the evolution of a young couple’s marriage as i
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Grove Press
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Ron Charles
Nov 21, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Know some young engaged couple who shouldn’t get married? Wrap up a copy of “Prosperous Friends” and toss it into the bridal shower like a molotov cocktail. Christine Schutt‘s artful little novel is mixed from crushed hopes and laced with the essence of despair. No one who opens it could walk down the aisle untroubled.

But at least the chastened lovers will have something good to read.

At 64, Schutt hasn’t written much compared with her book-a-year colleagues, but almost everything she publishes a
Jan 13, 2013 Clifford rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
If you like lyrical sentences and complex characters, but don’t need to have a raucous plot, you’ll like this book very much. I did. The writing is stunning, and the characters of Ned and Isabel are fascinating. And there IS a plot. It’s just not one that involves much mystery or action. Consider this book the antidote to Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. The enjoyment of that book was in its breathless pace and surprise (fueled, it has to be said, by deception), but the characters were flat and impl ...more
Nov 09, 2012 Kate rated it did not like it
You should know that I have had sex.

So it bothers me immensely that I would be half way through a scene (these are too underdeveloped to be chapters or sections or parts) before I realized that is what the characters were doing. And badly.

Even knowing that this book is about sex and love and the quest for a man to teach his woman how to have an orgasm (?), I had no idea.

The writing is beyond sparse. It is incoherent. It is underdeveloped.
David Winters wrote a sound, glowing review for this book in the LARB. While it had been on my radar, his review is what made me take the plunge.

While the story here is fairly commonplace, about the trappings and miscommunications in interpersonal relationships, Schutt's prose is magisterial: it truly is the primary focus in Prosperous Friends.

There is a temptation perhaps to call Schutt's prose poetic, but this is a phrase so often used when discussing novelists' prose that it's hardly fitting
Jun 02, 2013 Becky rated it it was ok
A couple's marriage is falling apart, so they both react by having affairs and never communicating. And this goes on for 200 pages. Within the 200 pages, interesting details of their relationship are alluded to, but never directly spelled out. To me, the biggest problems with the book were:

1. Though the characters were realistic, there was absolutely no one that was likable, not at all, in the least. IF people are going to be doing horrible things to each other, the reader should be rooting for
Apr 23, 2013 Tara rated it it was ok
"I am not turning into the person I want to be," one of the main characters reveals at the end of the book. I struggled with this one mightily. I like to think I can recognize artistry and appreciate complex inventive writing, but I had so much trouble following the truncated, abrupt, ungrammatical sentences in the first half of the book, I almost stopped reading. And here's the thing: Schutt's own voice seems to change in the second half. The writing gets a bit more fluid, but then suddenly we ...more
Bonnie Brody
Sep 29, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was ok
This short novel, written in a minimalist and somewhat surrealistic style, is about a young couple trying to find their way in their marriage. It is about their erotic needs, their intellectual curiosities and the people around them who fuel their lives.

Ned and Isabel are both privileged and at some point in time run into Clive and Dinah, he a painter and she a poet. They are inspired by Clyde and Dinah's ability to keep their marriage alive despite infidelities and personal differences.

Renee Leech
Sep 04, 2014 Renee Leech rated it liked it
I finished this book only to realize that I needed to read it again, so I did. After all, Prosperous Friends was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. I liked it better the second time, but I am only a little wiser as to its meaning. Christine Schutt has an extremely light touch and leaves unspoken far more than she explains. I believe that her book is about the gulf between the artistically prosperous and those who wish to be prosperous but are timid or have other facto ...more
Nov 06, 2012 Patty rated it liked it
Prosperous Friends
Christine Schutt

My" in a nutshell" summary...

This is a book about two rather odd dysfunctional couples...their lives and their loves.

My thoughts after reading this book...

Whew...this is a beautifully written book with stark truths and character studies. This is the kind of book that I love...and yet...this book and its characters...though exquisite in their oddities...did not appeal to me at all! dislike for these characters was fierce. The first couple...Nick and I
Judith Hannan
Nov 28, 2012 Judith Hannan rated it it was amazing
Reading Christine Schutt's work often feels to me like walking through a forest on the verge--on the verge of what I'm not always sure--perhaps of decay in one part, sudden growth in another, a transition to fall, branches full of bird song and then sudden quiet. In Prosperous Friends, the forest felt always on the verge of November in New England. The trees are stripped, their bare bones becoming visible, but the memory of leaves strong enough that despair is kept at bay.

Schutt writes with a
Jan 29, 2013 Pamela rated it it was amazing
Most "poetic" prose is primarily prose and most "prosy" poetry is still really poetry. Schutt is one of the few writers I can think of whose work gets close to a half-and-half amalgam. Yes, Prosperous Friends IS a novel, but its logic, its compression, and its language have deep roots in poetry. The book nominally follows (but "follows" is more of a term for a typical prose narrative) thirtysomething couple Ned and Isabel, both of whom have artistic ambitions. Their sexual mismatch begins to poi ...more
Mar 10, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: lapl
The writing style is slightly poetic which made this narrative choppy to read in places - didn't really work for me. And then the story is about privileged, trust fund, east coast couples who cheat on each other somewhat openly in marriages based on financial convenience and social status. All are writers and artists. Some have multiple homes. Hard to feel sorry for this type, especially when they're struggling to enjoy it all. Of course, with all the above factors in the mix, depression plays a ...more
Scott Wilson
Feb 26, 2013 Scott Wilson rated it liked it
I just spent almost an hour trying to remember this book's title. I need someone to blame, so I blame the Times Book Review, which didn't weigh in on it until this past Sunday, in a capsule just elliptical enough to make me think: I read a book kind of like that last year, but it's been months. I wonder what *that* book is called. Well, it's the same damn book, and I dock it a star for having what now feels like a generic title and for being at the root of an hour lost to dementia. Boo, Christin ...more
Nov 26, 2014 Runwright rated it really liked it
Shouldn't your spouse be your best friend? The title "Prosperous Friends" hints at the term "friends with benefits", a concept even more intriguing since the characters are married.

Ned and Isabel are both writers, who struggle in their relationship. They compete in their writing and in how much they can hurt each other. Married right out of grad school, they travel and collect friends, friends of one or the other, never both, friends with benefits, friends with secrets, friends with gifts they b
Lorri Steinbacher
Nov 19, 2012 Lorri Steinbacher rated it it was ok
More privileged, over educated people who fancy themselves creative who are pissed that the world does not find them as fascinating as they do and so they create unnecessary drama and design neuroses for themselves in order to appear as interesting as they think they are. Unlikable characters throughout and the narrative goes nowhere fast. Also WTF on the epilogue? A case of trying to be artfully subtle, I guess.
Jan 12, 2014 Tonya rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014-reads
Prosperous Friends follows the evolution of a young couple’s marriage as it is challenged by the quandaries of longing and sexual self-discovery. The glamorous and gifted Ned Bourne and his pretty wife, Isabel, travel to London, New York, and Maine in hopes of realizing their artistic promise, but their quest for sexual fulfillment is less assured. Past lovers and new infatuations, doubt and indifference threaten to bankrupt the marriage. The Bournes’ fantasies for their future finally give way ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Tobias rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2012
Not sure I loved the last scene pre-epilogue, but overall I was very taken with this book. I don't think the comparisons to Salter's LIGHT YEARS are unwarranted, and Schutt's elliptical prose style impressed throughout.
Nov 18, 2012 Roxane rated it liked it
Very interesting tone but at times the narrative feels very aimless. The aesthetic here is not one a novel can carry. Also, There's a small problem with the lack of plot.
Sabra Embury
Jul 26, 2015 Sabra Embury rated it liked it
Reading this book made me really want to re-read Light Years. The pros? A few out-there sentences (which were also cons in a sense they were speed bumps) & sometimes the prose read pretty mellifluously--otherwise you can skim the lollygag dialogue of the book's well-traveled West Coast socialites, yet idly admire the minimal details of their intrafuck games aka 'hide the Forsythia.'
Jessie Adamczyk
Apr 05, 2015 Jessie Adamczyk rated it it was ok
The story was interesting, but I'm not a huge fan of Schutt's style. She reminds me of an abridged Sylvia Plath. While I can see and understand the merit in the actualization of her work, it doesn't resonate me. I'm unlikely to recommends it or pick it up again, and so it gets a 2 on my scale.
Marc Nash
Jun 19, 2015 Marc Nash rated it liked it
I lost interest in the second half. None of the characters were terribly sympathetic, rather too indulged and indulgent to care about the various love triangles (parallelograms actually) and even the linguistic explosions were fewer and farther between. Think I'll give her short fiction a go instead
Sep 21, 2013 Elle rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2013
What was the point of the book, the resonating message I'm supposed to be left with? It's so vague. I don't like any of the characters and I don't know why the main couple bothered to get married in the first place. I understand more of why Dinah married James, Jimmy, Jimbo Card.

It's definitely meant to be read at night. The words flow in a really nice way sometimes, lulling. But during the day, I'm a bit jarred by the body shaming and the fact that these people are really awful to their core. A
Mar 26, 2014 K.K. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-book-log
I have a new favorite writer on my hands. The book blew my mind. Her use of language is masterful. Wow.
Cathe Olson
May 21, 2013 Cathe Olson rated it liked it
I tried to get through this book but gave up about 3/4 of the way through. I just didn't care about the characters and found the disjointed vignettes confusing. I never got pulled into the story. The writing is not bad-- but the style was not for me. This is not a 'sink-your-teeth into' type of book that pulls you out of the world but more of 'find a very quite place where you can concentrate and a read the passage over and over to figure out what's going on' type of book. Maybe another time whe ...more
Mar 22, 2015 eliza rated it did not like it
I couldn't figure out how to care about this book. Maybe if it was a Mike Leigh film.
Nov 19, 2012 Susan rated it did not like it
I had to quit this one after a few chapters because I just couldn't stand her style: elliptical, cryptic, fragmented, truncated, deliberately ambiguous at every turn. But it doesn't matter much because her characters are nasty, secretive, vague entities that this reader couldn't possibly care much about: spoiled, petulant types with no good reason for all their bemoanings and shenanigans. And it's all too glib and cool and modern as well. What a bore! I can't believe this writer came with such h ...more
Aug 06, 2014 Layne rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Lyrical and sparse. Occasionally beautiful, but mostly boring.
Chaitali Sen
Jun 02, 2013 Chaitali Sen rated it really liked it
This book kind of snuck up on me. I really didn't know where it was going for a while but then the tension broke and there was this return to reason and decency. That's the only way I can describe it. I found it surprisingly satisfying. Also it was a very quick read. In a way it's an anti-romance - instead of waiting to find out when the couple is going to get together and you're waiting for their separation and its aftermath. I couldn't really understand why Ned and Isabel stayed together for s ...more
Laura Hogensen
This is a short read, though challenging. The narrative style is opaque and often you are not sure whose head you're in or whose story you're following. I liked that aspect. From the beginning, you're thrown into this very intimate space of a marriage and you never leave. This book is not a happy reflection, but I do feel it's truthful. The writing is sparse, bleak, but also graceful and beautiful. The author has an eye and ear for form and moment. Give this book a chance, just do it during a ti ...more
Apr 11, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
For its precision of language, its illumination of small moments, the pleasures found in its sentences, I loved this book. The story of a mismatched young couple is dark, I suppose some might say gloomy. The darkness didn't bother me in the least because I was totally absorbed, sentence by sentence, moment to moment. The spare prose made me think of James Salter, and the quiet accumulation of telling detail reminded me of Lily Tuck. But this book is wholly its own, and it is a beautiful thing.
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“I still go to bed in mascara on the chance I'll be seen a lover.” 5 likes
“There may be cures to loneliness but marriage is not one of them,” 1 likes
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