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The Privileges

3.24 of 5 stars 3.24  ·  rating details  ·  3,584 ratings  ·  638 reviews
Smart and socially gifted, Adam and Cynthia Morey are perfect for each other. With Adam’s rising career in the world of private equity, a beautiful home in Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful. But for the Moreys, their future of boundless privilege is not arriving fast enough. As Cynthia begins to drift, Adam...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2010)
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karen
this is my best goodreads.com win so far. i entered to win this one because i really liked palladio, even though i can't remember anything about it, really. just flashes: advertising, a woman, secrets... but i remember being really impressed with it all those years ago. (someone else should read it and refresh my memory, please)and i have the feeling the same thing will happen to me with this one. it's not that there's no story; although it is more of a character(s) study than a huge event-riddl...more
Paul
1) I believe that whatever disasters strike this small blue planet of ours, global warming, a new pandemic, whatever, the rich will not only sail though unaffected, they’ll hardly notice what’s killing the rest of us. They’ll be somewhat put out when they have to replace their domestic staff more frequently because the staff they have keep dying from bird flu or lack of clean water or whatever. But that’s all. The rich are in the process of spinning off into their own sealed world where nothing...more
Greg
Even though it is only November 19th, 2009; I'm going to go on record and say that this book is the best book of 2010. Maybe I will be proven wrong, and I hope that I am, because that other book will be absolutely fucking amazing if it is better than this.

Since none of my fellow goodreaders to date have given this five stars is baffling to me, that some even gave it three stars makes wonder what is wrong with them, I will not judge though.

I hate writing reviews of books I love, I'd much rather...more
Erin
Jonathan Dee opens The Privileges with a wedding and 30 pages of cinematic, voyeuristic, tipsy, sweaty, dizzy, loud, lift-the-flap book-type fun. Sadly, all my literary seratonin was spent in that first chapter, and I was left to nurse a hangover for the remaining 200 pages. This book was enthusiastically endorsed by Jonathan Franzen, Richard Ford, and Tom Perrotta, among others, so I guess I expected to be knocked sideways by the whole thing.

Jonathan Dee gives his characters everything - mind-...more
Abby
The Privileges is a book with an interesting premise and interesting characters. The book bills itself as a intimate look into the rise of a financial tycoon and his family at the beginning of the 21st century and the moral and emotional quandaries they wrestle with.

Jonathan Dee is a gifted writer. He situates the characters clearly in a rarefied social milieu with all of the right signifiers and dialogue. The first chapter reads like an Edith Wharton novel. As Cynthia and Adam prepare for their...more
Talia Carner
Shallow characters and shallow wrting for a thin plot....

I am not in the habit of trashing novels. If I find a work to be less than compelling, I simply do not continue reading. However, this was an assignment for a book group, which forced me to read to the end. I was particularly intrigued since I had noticed the special place the NYT had given this novel in the annals of last year's literary as a "tour de force"--as did some other media outlets.

Therefore, without the risk of destroying Mr....more
Charles Matthews
I've been blurbed enough with quotations taken out of the context of my reviews that I know not to put complete faith in blurbs. But when the review copy of this book arrived with blurbs from writers I like, such as Richard Ford ("verbally brilliant, intellectually astute, and intricately knowing") and Jonathan Franzen ("a cunning, seductive novel about the people we thought we'd all agreed to hate"), then I really have to give it a go.

Dee's novel is an exploration -- and sometimes a refutation...more
Mark
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bette BookAddict

I mean no offense when I say, what I can't fathom is when people don't like this book – then reveal they actually only don't like the characters. I make this distinction here because a lot of people who didn't really like this novel tend to make very little comment on the actual writing itself. That's probably the art of a great novelist: to present you unlikable characters and yet get you to like the book anyway. I think Jonathan Dee achieves that in this novel.

The Privileges is slick, witty a...more
Elle
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Dolores Andral
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Becca
The conversations about sickness and death near the end of the book scared me so much that even though I was exhausted when I finished it last night I made myself pick up another book and read for a half hour more, to get the feeling of this book out of my head.

Still processing, but my first impulse is to say this was a brilliant book. The characters seem a little unrealistic and flat sometimes, but they all seem to serve a larger purpose. The couple the book is built around are such heinous, u...more
M
I am giving this very flawed book three stars because, ultimately, it was very readable (minus a really poor beginning)and occasionally interesting.
But.
This novel is about Cynthia and Adam, a young power couple who marry in the opening and proceed to have two beautiful kids and take on the world. There is no real urgency to this book - in fact, I would retitle it The Red Herrings, because until the book finds it stride (and it takes a while), there are a number of doors that creak open and then...more
Lobstergirl
A brilliant, pitch-perfect opening chapter sets a high standard that the rest of the book can't quite meet, not because of the writing, but because of character development and narrative arc. The ending is a letdown; we've seen such casual cruelty, heinousness, and violations of the social contract that we expect there to be consequences, but no one is made to pay.
Roderick Hart
The subject of this book is the effect of money, in excess, on those who have it, in this case Adam and Cynthia Morey and their children April and Jason. They have money because Adam works at a hedge fund, where he is second-in-command to the boss, who likes him personally and regards him as his heir apparent.

Not content with the vast sums he ‘earns’ at the hedge fund, Adam starts making even more through insider trading. He can only do this safely with the help of others and begins this operat...more
Kate
The next time you're in Barnes & Noble, be sure to pick up this book, curl up in an overstuffed armchair, and read this first chapter. I think it's the most wonderful first chapter I have ever read. ("The band thought it would be pretty punk to tell the hotel management fuck you, but they had another job there next weekend.") It must have been torture to follow this chapter with a whole book, but Jonathan Dee did it pretty well.

Cynthia and Adam Morey lead a charmed life -- soulmates rising...more
Holly Lee (Bellas Novella)
At first I wasn't quite sure how I feel about this book. On one hand it has a bit of a The Great Gatsby feel to it, while on the other hand the story seems to blather on with no end in sight, and no real reason to keep me reading. As I continued reading The Privileges I started to see the deeper meaning behind the story, and I was impressed.

The book is about a uber rich family. Adam and Cynthia started out rather humbly, but grew to be very rich and very powerful. With two kids, Jonas and April...more
Phil
Here's a book by a Columbia professor who, in my estimation, wanted to write a story that would capture the height of the "silly money" nouveau riche of the mid-2000s.

It's a fine idea, in theory. As readable and flowing as Dee's prose is, he's only able to string together a few good moments without actually giving us a compelling plot or characters who were very convincing or interesting.

Adam - a seemingly just-above-average dude who receives the magical ability to make money in the derivatives...more
Carl Brush
Here’s another Pulitzer finalist, a well-wrought work, full of interesting characters and situations, that is just not my kind of book. My fault, I know, not Jonathan Dee’s, not the committee’s, but there it is. The Privileges follows the fortunes of an wealthy Manhattan family from parents’ wedding day to a time (purposely vague) that coincides with the late-adolescence/early adulthood of their son and daughter.

This is not as bad as Tinkers (See March 13, 2011) for me, a book which leads from...more
Jamie
Adam Morey and Cynthia Sikes get married. They live in New York, have a couple of kids, and amass so much money that you can’t really get your head around it. The end.

I disliked this book a great deal, but I didn’t start out that way. I thought the first section, which was in present tense and had a wry, droll sense of humor about the wedding of these two “perfect” people, was fantastic and exciting. But then I got to the second section. And the third. Each one skipped about five years in the li...more
Emily
A well written family novel that takes place in a nonspecifically present-day version of New York City, this unexpectedly left me feeling a bit empty and bummed out. The book opens with a great vignette of two rather unpleasant people, Cynthia and Adam, getting married on a hot day in Pittsburgh, and continues with chapters portraying moments in their life up until the time their two children are college-age. Adam, who runs a hedge fund with some insider trading on the side, vaults the family fr...more
switterbug (Betsey)
There was very little in this book to scoop me up or draw me in. I thought it was rather banal and ultimately resided in the upper end of the guppy pool. Deeply superficial. It was billed as DeLillo-esque, which is why I wanted to read it. It tanked.

When writing about obscenely rich navel-gazers, it helps to be fresh and original. I enjoy essentially unlikable characters in literature--they are often savagely solipsistic and subversive. Tom Wolfe, Martin Amis and Zoe Heller create self-regarding...more
Brett
I've never read a book with fewer likable characters than this one. In fact, I can't think of a single redeeming character in the entire 258 pages. The main character, Adam, seems like a cool-enough guy when he's young, but once he starts working as a hedge fund manager his lust for money becomes apparent. As he grows older he starts doing illegal things so he can accumulate more money, even though he already has more money than he knows what to do with. His stay-at-home wife is too busy with he...more
Kerry
Read my full review at Entomology of a Bookworm.

... The prose throughout Dee's novel is stark but emotional, captured perfectly by David Aaron Baker's narration in the audio version. Though several reviews have complained of the static nature of the storyline, or the flatness of the characters, and these complaints are not entirely unfounded, I found that this bare-bones approach to storytelling actually complimented Dee's novel. Dee is not out to judge his characters, or even make you like them...more
Kerry
The Privileges is an aptly-named novel about a wealthy family in Manhattan. Adam and Cynthia Morey are a pure exemplification of the American Dream. Married at 22, fresh out of college, they return from their honeymoon expecting their first child. Adam works for a hedge fund, Cynthia a fashion magazine. Adam gets a raise. Cynthia stops working to raise children. They settle into modest apartment in Manhattan, then move to a larger one when their children are too old to share a bedroom. Adam deal...more
Greg Linster
Frédéric Bastiat once wrote: “There are people who think that plunder loses all its immorality as soon as it becomes legal. Personally, I cannot imagine a more alarming situation.” In light of all that has happened surrounding the financial crisis of 2008 and the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, we’ve been left to wonder about the downfall of modern ethics, regardless of legality. The growing separation between the ethical and the legal stems, I think, from a desire to become wealthy at any and all c...more
Katie
The writing of this book was absolutely excellent, especially the beginning with the wedding scene. It's almost as if Dee were a film director, how he easily flits from one set of people/happenings to another totally seamlessly. I also thought it was quite clever how the descriptions of Cynthia and Adam were often from other characters' words, talking about them. He never describes them in the narration, but has the other characters and their dialogue speak for them. He's definitely one for show...more
Lisa-marie
A book club pick. This book is so well written that you are immediately sucked in and engrossed in this morality tale. It's a sad commentary on today's social climbing, materialistic society. I personally disliked every character in it - reserving only a little sympathy for the spoiled, yet resistant son who does try hard to retain some sort of depth of character in his completely artificial and superficial world. He disappoints though. I am guessing that the book is intended to be a cautionary...more
Stuart
I read this for my book club and it's not anything I'd ordinarily pick up. Sometimes that's a good thing; I get to stretch my range. In this case, I'd say that this book wasn't enjoyable, although it is well written and plotted. In the Privileges, we get to look at a NYC power couple who love each other dearly and hate the rest of the world. Adam, the husband, is a Wall Street Master of the Universe. He's obnoxious as hell. His wife, Cynthia, works out an ungodly number of times a week to stay a...more
Chris
This is a story about a man who got insider-trading-rich-rich-rich, got away with it and used his wealth and position to promote and protect himself and his family. Nothing wrong with that - the self promotion and protection part. The family established a "legacy" foundation and spent their lives giving their money to good works and hermetically sealing themselves from harm. What's interesting about this book is the way it is written. The characters are not flushed out by the author. I wanted mo...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Jonathan Dee is the author of five novels. He is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, a frequent contributor to Harper's, and a former senior editor of The Paris Review. He teaches in the graduate writing programs at Columbia University and the New School.
More about Jonathan Dee...
A Thousand Pardons Palladio The Liberty Campaign كتاب كوچك فنگ شويي St. Famous

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