Erin's Reviews > The Privileges

The Privileges by Jonathan  Dee
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Jul 15, 11

Read from June 16 to July 02, 2011

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-blowing wealth, a nauseatingly flawless (or, at least, unchanging and uncomplicated) marriage, adorably precocious (or, at least, unchanging and uncomplicated) children. There's a whole lotta giveth, and very little taketh away. Dee's characters are profanely rich, self-satisfied people with no legitimate problems. The stakes are plenty high; Dee's characters stand to lose so much, to fall so far. But they stay standing, things never fall apart, and the reader is led on a carrot chase for a catharsis that never comes.

I think Dee was trying, very consciously trying, to tell a morality tale, to examine ethics and mores and risks in the world of high finance and uberwealth. And maybe I missed some great discovery there. When the characters are cardboard and the plot never gets off the ground, who can follow the social underpinnings?

There's also some rather flat, insipid dialogue, an awkwardly didactic foray into art brut, and an untidy way with the passage of time.

Somehow, despite its stodginess, The Privileges never stops entertaining. I realize my criticisms sound like a categorical indictment, but this was actually a pleasant summer read somehow - note the 3 stars! 3 out of 5 ain't (too) bad.
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Colette Iacobellis "When the characters are cardboard and the plot never gets off the ground, who can follow the social underpinnings?

There's also some rather flat, insipid dialogue, an awkwardly didactic foray into art brut, and an untidy way with the passage of time."

Exactly what I thought. Well said!


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