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Three Dollars

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  953 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Winner of The Age Book of the Year in Australia, Three Dollars is about Eddie, an honest, compassionate man who finds himself, at the age of thirty-eight, with a wife, a child, and three dollars. At any other time the world would have smiled on him. But this is the nineties and the world values other things. A brilliantly deft and poignant portrait of a man attempting to r ...more
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published June 15th 1999 by MacMurray & Beck (first published 1998)
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Apr 09, 2007 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentreads
This is one of the best novels I've read in a long time, possibly one of the best I've read. Pearlman's Eddie Harnovey is a decent man living in increasingly bankrupt times (i.e., now). He and his wife Tanya are young, aspiring professionals who find their truth-seeking inclinations stymied by the corporatist, deregulating world around them.

The seismic shift of priorities that Western governments, particularly English-speaking ones, embraced in the 80s in the name of imparting "personal respons
Jenn Custard-Jarosz
Terribly mundane. I'm a sucker for personal struggle, or a an occasional plot twist at the very least. This protagonist is completely uninteresting. There was a brief nostalgic tug on my heartstrings when Eddie recounts the beginning of his relationship with high school sweetheart Tanya, as anyone could relate for a few sweet moments until reality pukes in their mouth a little. Forgive me, is that harsh?

If I had any interest in following the lives on higher education "intellectuals" who have d
Dell Macneil
Aug 14, 2007 Dell Macneil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Intelligent readers
I read this book almost 10 years ago in its original Australian edition, which won The Age "Book of the Year" award. It's the type of book that leaves a lasting impression, and it remains one of my favourite books.
The following synopsis from the Pan Macmillan Australia Picador website is a good introduction to Three Dollars:

"At once humorous and dramatic, Three Dollars is about Eddie, an honest, compassionate man who finds himself, at the age of 38, with a wife, a child and three dollars.
Feb 29, 2008 Howard rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 28, 2008 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book read in much the same way as The Seven Types of Ambiguity. It is intelligent, thoughtful, but very liberal and those of a conservative bent will find no love in here. Therefore, I liked it. It was extremely depressing and post-modern. Therefore, I liked it. Put in context with the greater work of Seven Types, it is an interesting juxtaposition of post-modern thought before Perlman decides to be anti-post-modern thought. Overall, intelligent and engaging. The conceit of the three dollar ...more
Jan 20, 2009 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults secure enough in their lives to take it with a grain of salt
Perlamn uses so many words to get his point across that at times it is almost easier to read him aloud to yourself. Being a verbal person myself, I was cool with it.

I was really enjoying the book, the descriptions, the character interactions...and then about 3/4 of the way through I got horribly depressed. I waded through the depression and then WHAM! the book was over. Just like that. Things are worse and worse until they are suddenly better and the curtain is coming down. Deus ex machina anyon
Jan 20, 2009 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who can enjoy the odditys of life
This book is charming. It has a lot of social satire about our lives as we grow up from college, to career, to family, and all of the weird seemingly meaningless encounters we have in life that turn out to be life changing events. It is slow in the beginning, but quickly keeps you interested thereafter and I couldn't put it down. Eddie the lead character is someone we can relate with as most of the book are things we have all thought, but couldn't put pen to paper. Very good!
May 13, 2009 R.J. rated it liked it
I went into this book expecting it to be written similarly to "7 Types of Ambiguity". Not so. It's more light-hearted than "7 Types..." The theme of seeing his innocent childhood friend, Amanda, throughout his life didn't carry the book as much as I thought it would. The protagonist was a very likable character, but besides his humor, he was rather...boring. Though, the relationships with his wife and daughter do give the story more heft.
Eric Conner
May 28, 2009 Eric Conner rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
This book definitlely disappointed me. After reading 'Seven Types of Ambiguity' I went out and ordered two more of Rerlman's books; 'Three Dollars & ' The Reasons I Wont be Coming' (hopefully "Reasons" will be better).
Ok, the story/plot line was depressing and way too drawn out. I thought the book was going to be good for the Intro and the first 2 chapters, then it became repetitive. And the Perlman uses like 40 words in one sentence that could be said in 15 it seemed.
I just was majorlly di
Oct 22, 2011 Gayle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
Not as good as 7 types, but still excellent. Have owned this for maybe 10 years. Funny, I started it, but didn't finish it then. I suppose there is times in your life for reading certain books, because I loved it this time.
Mar 11, 2012 Hannah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
I was looking forward to reading this book, set in a city I had lived in, by an intelligent and well reviewed local writer. Perlman's topic of economic change in a modern era appealed to me, and at first I enjoyed the characters and pace. But I found this book very unsubtle. Perlman's politics is all too obvious, and his language is at time affected. He tries too hard to impress the reader with his political commentary and artificial metaphors.
Feb 02, 2012 knig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whatthe-hell
‘Ever feel’, the blurb on the back blurbeth, ‘like the only thing trickling down is sewage?’

Oh Yes, I do! Verily I do.

‘Any body who has felt the small, grey ordinary feeling which lies in ambush some mornings and tries to keep you from getting out of bed will enjoy Three Dollars’

Why yes, I’ve felt it, every morning in fact, and not just because London is foggy and grey in winter. Too true, uh hum.

‘Dolour is never far away and Perlman’s rage, rancour, even, is unmistakeable’

Well hallelujah, this
Mar 16, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
"Never read a book that consists of lyrical prose that is underpinned with true humanitarianism, exploring politics, ideology and sociology. Was wondering why this had a five star rating and, yet not quite half way through, this is SO much more than a narrative; it comments on Australian society; our apathy and paradoxically our commitment to causes - a brilliant book that exemplifies so many themes... Only problem I found was that it slowed down a little just when Paul's wife came to s
Apr 23, 2012 Terri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've got to admit that while I did enjoy the story it was a depressing read and took me quite a while to finish.
Edward reminds me of many men I know, scratching away for the sake of their family, unsure what would happen if the boat capsized. I wasn't a fan of Tanya at all - a know-all pain in the arse, hired by the university straight after graduation with no idea how the world works and unwilling to listen to anyone who disagrees with her ideals. So, again, a very believable character and her
Very engaging novel about trying to make your life work and somehow remain human in the increasingly dehumanizing world of corporate greed and disenfranchisement. Although it is more than ten years old and set in Australia, if anything it is even more on point for 2012 USA. The protagonist is an amazingly likable and honest soul and you cringe for every humiliating experience he is forced to suffer. It leaves one feeling hopeful--if not for his immediate financial prospects (which seem grim), bu ...more
Annabel Smith
Apr 22, 2012 Annabel Smith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, australian
I can hardly believe I'm abandoning this book. After reading The Street Sweeper I couldn't wait to read more of Perlman's work. But this felt so trivial in comparison, and a little glib. The voice got on my nerves. I couldn't connect. Sorry!
Jun 27, 2012 S'hi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very amusing through some of life’s disturbing scenarios of middle class challenge. Some amazing use of language to twist an almost cliché into something quite remarkable on a regular basis.
No chance to fall asleep through this one. Even the depression scene is more alive than many other writers manage in the thick of their action!
An astonishing talent, and looking forward to reading more of him!
Aug 14, 2012 Jeremiah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first became aware of Perlman's work with "Seven Types of Ambiguity". I think the thing that strikes me most about his writing is his keen ability to capture the stream of consciousness of his characters as well as create realistic, almost tangible worlds for them to exist.

Three Dollars was no exception. And while I was lost among some of the political conversations in the book, I marveled at how real he characters seem to become as the story went on.
Aug 27, 2012 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
Een heel actueel boek over de crisis en alle gevolgen van dien. Een jong stel met klein kind komt financieel in de problemen wanneer ze allebei hun baan verliezen en de hypotheek niet meer kunnen ophoesten maar Perlman heeft wel heel veel omwegen en zijwegen nodig om zijn verhaal te vertellen. Naar mijn gevoel had dit verhaal persoonlijker en aangrijpender verteld kunnen worden.
Justin Evans
Aug 31, 2012 Justin Evans rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"Remarkably well written..."
"A catchy pop song..."

Forgive me if this sounds elitist, but when Time Out and Marie Claire say your novel is literary or well written, but the NYTBR says it's a pop-song, you've been middlebrowed. And so this novel is: fabulous escapism if you already think that neo-classical economics is a bad idea and that 'self-reliance' is a smoke-screen behind which a few million people get rich while wages stagnate. Now, I do think these things, and the novel is n
David Winger
Jan 03, 2013 David Winger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genius
He's one of the best writers in the country. Malouf is a more accomplished and finished product, White was more universal and more erudite, Patrick Holland may have more raw talent, Murnane is stranger, Castro more exotic and Josephine Rowe slicker, but perhaps no one puts it all in one package like Perlman. This book is hard as nails and right on the money, so different from most of the Woman's Day style Oz Lit being forced upon us today. Imagine something like The Slap, mood and concerns, only ...more
Jolene Haack
Ugh. UGH. I tried. Really. But if you spend most of your time rolling your eyes while reading, something is wrong.

For example:

Using the term "moistened the inside of her neck" instead of just saying "swallowed".

This is what did me in, though. After this line, my brain turned off.

"Usually I watched her flicker on the wall, remembering her from university, imagining that young woman screaming in horror at the absence of exhilaration in her mid-thirties self. It was too simple and therefore inaccur
Sep 13, 2013 Vishy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered Elliot Perlman’s ‘Three Dollars’ through Lisa (from ANZ Lit Lovers) who recommended it and other books by Perlman highly. I hadn’t heard of Perlman before and so was quite excited to discover a new-to-me author. I read the book over the last week and finished it yesterday. Here is what I think.

The story told in ‘Three Dollars’ is narrated by Eddie. Eddie meets Amanda every nine and a half years. She was his childhood friend and they studied in the same school together. After Amanda
David Goode
I'm pretty sure this is the first novel I have read that has been set almost entirely in Melbourne Australia; which is where i live. This was kinda cool, cause I knew exactly what everything looked like and I could at times relate to what he was talking about when he described a place or a feeling.

This book is set mostly around the recession during the early 90's, The recession that 'Australia had to have'. It focuses around Eddie, who, at various times throughout his life, finds himself either
Ron Charles
Dec 29, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
"Three dollars" doesn't sound like much, but Elliot Perlman's new novel is priceless. Already a bestseller in his native Australia, this is Perlman's first book, and with an initial public offering like this, it looks like the beginning of a considerable literary fortune.

Eddie Harnovey, the ironic narrator of this charming story, has a keen eye for patterns in his life - personal and economic - and most of them aren't good. "Every nine and a half years I see Amanda," he begins. "Most recently wa
Claudia Putnam
Apr 20, 2014 Claudia Putnam rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This book pretty much sums up the 90s.

I didn't realize things were so much the same in Australia as they were/are in the US... Except there apparently banks just change the interest rates on your home mortgage at whim.

This is a story about the many betrayals the educated classes have fallen prey to in the last decade or so, when it seemed that if you were a qualified professional and worked decently hard you ought to be able to count on certain securities. A job, a house, a family.

All of thes
May 27, 2016 Barak rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The events in this book portray a couple of my generation (10 years older than me, but this is negligent), living in Melbourne, both university graduates, the wife an academic in the area of literature, working on her PhD. thesis, while her husband (being also the narrator/protagonist) working as a chemical engineer. The story leads us gradually but surely into the economic recession of the early 1990s, where many people lost their jobs (rate of unemployment was close to 11%).

The book itself is
David Scarratt
I am ambivalent about whether to assign a rating to this book. I don't think it would reflect any sort of equilibrium of reasons. It contains some great writing, including a few particularly fine bons mots. There's a couple of interesting and articulate characters (perhaps too articulate, at times), a story I could readily relate to, and the right attitude to neoliberalism. But I half wish I hadn't bothered. Maybe I didn't get it. Maybe it seems dated. Maybe I just didn't like the ending. Or may ...more
Apr 01, 2016 Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1998 - I've been wanting to read it since then - but still so relevant to world economic events even now. Eddie, his wife Tanya and baby daughter Abby, their friends Kate & Paul, work colleagues... and the enigmatic Amanda, show what can happen to the ordinary person, caught in the stranglehold of the reality of economic systems. A startling adult book - fresh, and with a humour that is subtle at times, laugh-out-loud funny at other times, and always deliciously ironic. I ...more
Paul Fleckney
Jul 11, 2016 Paul Fleckney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Three Dollars is the best novel I have read in a long time and quite possibly the finest work of Australian literature I've come across to date. Yes, this is literature, in the sense that it's a work of art that moved me and at turns made me feel sad, angry, elated, heartbroken and excited. Perlman writes with an empathy for his characters that becomes infectious to the reader. I really cared about these people and I could relate to their circumstances.

It's tempting to portray Three Dollars as
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Elliot Perlman is an Australian author and barrister. He has written two novels and one short story collection. His work "condemns the economic rationalism that destroys the humanity of ordinary people when they are confronted with unemployment and poverty". This is not surprising in a writer who admires Raymond Carver and Graham Greene because they "write with quite a strong moral centre and a st ...more
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“Je n'étais même pas libre de pleurer. Qui est jamais libre de pleurer ? Il y a toujours des gens autour, des gens capables de regarder sans le voir un homme sur son chemin de croix, avec sa carrière dans des cartons, mais incapables de supporter le festin visuel d'un homme en pleurs, oui, en pleurs, emporté par l'hiver de son déplaisir.

Mais eux non plus, ils n'étaient pas libres d'ingérer le spectacle et de retourner à leurs affaires pour pleurer, de peur que leurs collègues ne les voient en larmes devant leur écran d'ordinateur. Le dernier qui pleurera aura gagné. Nous savons tous ça. Les enfants le tiennent pour un article de foi. Les adultes, eux, ne sont plus en position de le formuler comme tel, mais ils le savent d'instinct. En conclusion, personne n'est libre de pleurer. Personne excepté Tanya.

Devant le gare, il m'est apparu que personne n'est réellement libre, pas seulement en matière de larmes, mais en toute chose. Si un évènement ou une situation détermine ou en cause une autre, en quel sens peut-on prétendre que nous sommes libres d'agir ou non ? Si notre comportement est déterminé par toute une série de facteurs, notre structure génétique, la manière dont nous avons été mis au monde, notre perception de l'amour, l'attention et le confort matériel que nous avons connus enfant, jusqu'à notre taux de sucre dans le sang et notre exposition immédiate aux conditions climatiques dominantes, en quoi sommes-nous libres ?

Et même si nous pouvions calculer l'effet de tous ces facteurs et prédire notre comportement, nous ne serions toujours pas libres. Car être capable de prédire les évènements futurs ne permet pas pour autant de les influencer si les variables qui les déterminent échappent à notre contrôle.”
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