Prosperous Friends
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Prosperous Friends

2.98 of 5 stars 2.98  ·  rating details  ·  163 ratings  ·  48 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...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Grove Press
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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...more
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
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.
Ron Charles
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...more
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...more
"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
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...more
Judith Hannan
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...more
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
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
Bonnie Brody
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.

Scott Wilson
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
Lorri Steinbacher
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.
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
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.
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.
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...more
I have a new favorite writer on my hands. The book blew my mind. Her use of language is masterful. Wow.
Cathe Olson
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
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
Chaitali Sen
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
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.
Lynda Schmidt
I enjoyed the writing of this book, though I sometimes wanted just a bit more from the story. I found hte charaters to be a bit annoying and too self-centered, on many levels. I did enjoy the structure of the novel. I love thinking about life in stages of where we live and how that impacts our actions and those who we choose to spend our time with. I hadn't heard of Christine Schutt prior to this - came upon the book in the public library - and thought I probably should.
According to a Bulgarian proverb, the person who tries to sit on two stools at the same time winds up on the floor. So it goes for the members of the love triangles in Prosperous Friends, a slim novel in which the characters, despite their ostensibly charmed lives as artists and writers, struggle to find happiness, purpose, or fulfillment. In this slim, tight novel, Schutt, pulls off a tale that in lesser hands might have been meta-pretentious or merely bleak.
Carla May
I struggled to decide what rating to give this little book: 2 stars because I am not enamored or 3 stars because the prose is good: lyrical and flowing, soundly communicating the insecurities, struggles and situations for the characters. Well, just because I do not like the book and I found it hard for me personally to like the main characters it is no reason to cut it down.

A good book, but the writing style might not be for everyone.
Cindy Roesel
I didn't know what to expect when approaching PROSPEROUS FRIENDS. Of course, I knew Christine Schutt by reputation. The writing was beautiful, but I was disappointed with the storyline. It seemed as if there was a lot of whining when there so many opportunities to move forward. The characters had everything going for them, but were so self absorbed and selfish it was vulgar. I finished the book because it was short and so well-written.
Wow, such searing unhappiness! I stopped reading a few times because I felt, I cannot go through this with this writer.

I really enjoyed the writing though sometimes found its tone a little lofty. but the loftiness could've come from its content--a world of unhappy ivy-league graduates. The prologue and epilogue contain a different set of characters than the rest of the book, and these sections were for me where the writing was wonderful.
Christine Schutt is one of my favorite contemporary authors. She publishes so infrequently, so I am always excited to read her new work. Unfortunately, her latest, Prosperous Friends, falls flat. While her language is poetic and sparse (and frankly the only reason to consider reading this novel), her characters are not only dislikable, but also lacking in development. Hoping her next book captures her true talent!
Reading Schutt's prose is like creating a bowl with your hands and immersing them in vat of white flour. As you lift your hands up, flour slides through the minuscule spaces in between your fingers. It is impossible to keep it all in, but the sparse granules that remain settle into the crevices of your hands, powdering the lines of age and loneliness.
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