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A Season in Purgatory

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  1,798 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
They were the family with everything. Money. Influence. Glamour. Power. The power to halt a police investigation in its tracks. The power to spin a story, concoct a lie, and believe it was the truth. The power to murder without guilt, without shame, and without ever paying the price. America's royalty, they called the Bradleys. But an outsider refuses to play his part. And ...more
Hardcover, 377 pages
Published April 13th 1993 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published 1993)
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Petra X
He could really write, Dominick Dunne, couldn't he? I know this was a fictionalised account of the Skakel murder of Martha Moxley, I know the Bradleys were the Kennedys, but still it read, at least in the initial chapters like Waugh's Brideshead. The same shining scion and his shadow, poor but in love and literate. The same feeling of anything was possible, morality was unimportant compared to riches. All that and they were Catholic too.

I advertised for a part-time clerk today. The first person
Jean Marie Angelo
Jul 29, 2013 Jean Marie Angelo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book, as we all know, is a fictionalized version of the Martha Moxley murder. The fictional location of Scarborough Hill, Conn., is really meant to be the tony Belle Haven neighborhood of Greenwich. The murderer, Constant Bradley, is a composite character of Ted Kennedy, Will Smith (a Kennedy cousin accused of rape), and Michael Skakel (the Kennedy cousin who was eventually convicted of Martha's murder).

Martha was killed the night before Halloween in 1975. I was a young teen then and I liv
Apr 05, 2008 Jerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quite a good book in Dominick Dunne's style of taking a true crime and changing the names and a few of the facts so that you still know who it is based on. A Season in Purgatory is based on Kennedy nephew's Michael Skakel's murder of Martha Moxley in the wealthy town of Greenwich, Connecticutt in 1975. The story is told from the point of view of the killers boarding school buddy who was visiting that weekend. The story is about how power and privilege can prolong justice. Years after thi ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Mo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I decided to read this book because I had just finished watching a documentary about Ann Woodward and remembered that Dominick Dunne had written a fictionalized book based on her life called “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles”. (She, along with several others, makes an appearance in this book too.) Since I had thoroughly enjoyed it, I decided to try this one.

I was not disappointed!

Half the fun of this novel is trying to identify who all the real life players are in this fascinating roman à clef by Dominic
Aug 08, 2009 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book grabbed me from the beginning and sucked me into the Bradley's world. I loved the way that Dunne developed each of the characters so that you could see how and why each was unable to stand up to Gerald's tyranny or Grace's religious manipulation. I really wanted to like the Bradley family but they all were dispicable in their own way. The exception was Agnes who was shuttered away in an institution and never discussed by the famiy until Constant needed her for his defense. Everyone in ...more
Jun 08, 2008 Joanne rated it really liked it
Heard this book is a fiction story based on the 1975 Martha Moxley murder in Greenwich. That story always fascinated and scared me because I was a teen during that time and realized it could of happened to someone I knew!

The book got off to a slow start, but then the character development and intertwining of the years and lives became very interesting and fascinating. Dunne portrayed the character relationships very well. You wanted to love the Bradleys for their money, power and outwardly perfe
Mar 27, 2009 Coco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
I read this book a long time ago, but have followed the real-life Skakel murder it was based upon. I'm a faithful reader of Dunne's Vanity Fair dispatches and found the book to be a faithful representation of what allegedly happened in this upscale place. Using money and power the family in the book, and in real life, covered it up and Dunne identities well with the murdered girl's family since his own daughter was killed and her attacker received a slap on the wrist. Well-written, great charact ...more
Aug 16, 2012 Brittany rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"You're different," said Constant.
"Oh, I hope so," replied Harrison.

"This is a tough guy...I don't mean tough, like in the boxing ring...I mean a tougher kind of tough, like integrity tough."

"If I had it to do over again, would I do what I did? I would like to say, "Oh, yes, yes, yes," but, in truth, I wonder."

"Purgatory is a place for contemplation of what is ahead, for atonement for what is behind, for purification, for expiation. It is a preparation for the sight of God."

"...truth will always
Aug 11, 2016 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nobody does this as well as Dunne. Spectacular, absorbing trash. Loved it.
Mar 22, 2016 Lesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A smoothly written and compelling story of a Family- the Bradleys, and one outsider, the friend who ultimately brings them down. Or does he?
Constant Bradley,the youngest son, all the hopes of the family are pinned on this bright and dazzling young man. But his friend Harrison knows he has a dark side. One night, Harrison becomes involved in an event that will change all their lives forever.
It is so seamlessly put together, written as it is in either 1st Person narrative ( Harrison Burns) or, 3rd
Jan 03, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lori by: Joseph
My brother recommended this book to me and at first I didn't like it, but 2 chapters in the drama started. Each chapter sucked me in more. The ending was a surprise and then a double surprise.
Candace Rollins
Jan 21, 2016 Candace Rollins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this book assuming it was a fictionalized version of the Skakel/Moxley murder, but found it more of a hybrid Kennedy/Skakel and Moxley murder. Even without all the similarities to the families involved in the murder and subsequent trial, it was a real page turner. The juxtapositions of power and desire vs. devout religion ( and the morality it should impose) and love of family were always at odds in this book. I really enjoyed this book.

unfamiliar word

pg. 40 antimacassars: cloth placed
Dianne Landry
Feb 27, 2014 Dianne Landry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago but picked it up again as a break from my nonfiction Christmas presents.

It is a fictionalized version of the Martha Moxley murder case and of the Kennedy family. I won't go into details because everyone knows the story but I will say that this is an enjoyable but sordid look into the lives of the rich and powerful. I love Dominick Dunne's books.
Feb 26, 2016 Gerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dunne has a writing style that’s very readable, and in this novel, loosely based on a murder in Connecticut for which Ethel Kennedy’s brother was charged and acquitted, he has a compelling tale to tell of a wealthy family powerful enough to prevent the youngest son from ever facing consequences of his actions.
Jul 16, 2014 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by Jean West.
Wealthy Catholic family and a poor friend of one son, starts off like Kennedy's.
Dates are off, main events happen in 1972 but it seems like it should e 15 years earlier.
Starts slow, gets good.
Family, the Bradleys, murder cover up for 20 years, then trial.
50 States and at least 50 Authors 2016 Reading Challenge. CONNECTICUT.

My brother recommended this book. I did not know the back story on this book before I started reading it, but it was obvious from the beginning that the book was based on the Kennedy family (large Irish Catholic family, older brother killed during the war, older sister mentally retarded secreted away in an institution, father very controlling, mother concerned primarily with her faith, etc.). The book is actually based on the
Oct 28, 2015 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Fictional tale based on the true story of a teenage girl murdered by a privileged rich teenage boy (in real life, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy).

Our narrator Harrison is school friends with Constant Bradley and the Bradley Family (i.e. The Kennedy's) and takes us down the rabbit hole of being associated with the elite household through their twisted façade of being the perfect family despite extramarital affairs, abuse, alcoholism, and... murder.

I hated the Bradley's and their smug attitude. Age ol
Cynthia Davidson
Good exploration of just what 'purgatory' is, might be, especially among the so called privileged upper classes.

This book also reveals what happens when your place of purgatory is right here and now in this lifetime, when you don't take a stand, don't stand up for decency, justice or fairness in your own life. When the wife doesn't confront her husband's rotten behaviors - cheating his partners, cheating on her...she ends up with a rotten scoundrel of a son...

If the women don't develop, grow,
Stephen Schnabel
Sep 04, 2009 Stephen Schnabel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book takes a good look at how the wealthy and powerful can get into trouble and come out unscathed. It also shows how some people have their futures mapped out for them with trust funds and high ambitions. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is how people with enough money and enough charisma can worm their way out of any situation, whether it's something as simple as a parking ticket or a as complex and drastic as a murder. This book is not only great fiction, but it is also a ...more
Jul 15, 2008 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a spin off of the Michael Skakel/Kennedy family story. The book emphasizes the role that power and money play in this rich family. The characters are fictional but it's not hard to imagine them as part of the real Kennedy family. GREAT read. And, as an added bonus, Patrick Dempsey played a role in the made for tv movie about this book/Michael Skakel story.

A Season in Purgatory:
In 1993 Dominick Dunne's fictional novel which mirrored the Moxley case, A Season in Purgatory, hit the b
Stephen Roberts
Jan 22, 2015 Stephen Roberts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a gripping story that is hard to put down once you've begun. If you love justice, this book will have you gritting your teeth with frustration and a loathing for the powerful, yet immoral, family. A great read!
Marlene Thompson
One of my favorite books. Dunne has a writing style that is simple and easy to read. This is one I have read no less than 3 times before. A fictionalized account of the Martha Moxley murder.. it is a page turner.
Melinda Elizabeth
Sep 30, 2012 Melinda Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book got me in the mood for Revenge when it comes back on tv in a few days. It has that Hamptons, Grayson feel about it where the rich get away with everything, and the strong patriarch keeps a firm hand on all that happens and who the children turn out to be.

It lagged a little in the middle where it became extremely dull reading, the struggle between doing whats right and whats convenient was a little on the slow side, and Constant became a little two dimensional. I rarely felt th
Mar 02, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dominick Dunne told lots of stories about the rich and famous. While fictional, this book reminded me of the Kennedy family. It was an easy read and held my interest.
Feb 05, 2010 Barb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barb by: Tom Freeman
Based on the Martha Moxley murder and the public images of the Kennedy clan. The characters are not very well developed and are pretty cliche. I would say they reflect two-dimensional Irish-American Roman Catholic images from someone who had bitter feelings towards the Kennedys. The story and characters ARE interesting, but since they were taken from real situations and were not creatively drawn by the author, this is simply a kudos to the authors ability as a journalist and not as an author. Th ...more
Mar 31, 2016 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a delightfully salacious beach read based on the Kennedy family with a dash of Brideshead Revisited. I am now keen to check out more of Dunne's novels.
Sarahc Caflisch
Borrowed this from a Little Free Library, and it's the first Domiinick Dunne novel I've read. I was surprised with how much I liked it.
Donna Halloran
Pretty darn good story. I liked the main character. I enjoyed the pace. It was pretty predictable but that doesn't always bother me. Really a 3 1/2 star
Srinivasan Nagarajan
This story drags around 500 pages about rich constant , noble harrison burns and their life . finally a twist in the conclusion made me like this book.
Sep 28, 2014 Carleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This man could write. What a loss when he died with not near enough fanfare. Great story written in the pure, good form he's so well known for. Believable, captivating, enthralling - great fiction holds great truth. Thanks for another great read, DD.
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Dominick Dunne was an American writer and investigative journalist whose subjects frequently hinged on the ways high society interacts with the judiciary system. He was a producer in Hollywood and is also known from his frequent appearances on television.

After his studies at Williams College and service in World War II, Dunne moved to New York, then to Hollywood, where he directed Playhouse 90 and
More about Dominick Dunne...

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