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A Thousand Pardons

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,923 ratings  ·  634 reviews
For readers of Jonathan Franzen and Richard Russo, Jonathan Dee’s novels are masterful works of literary fiction. In this sharply observed tale of self-invention and public scandal, Dee raises a trenchant question: what do we really want when we ask for forgiveness?

Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a pre
Hardcover, 214 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Random House (first published 2013)
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Althea Thank goodness for Goodreads and the people who take time to comment. I just read the first 4 or 5 pages and thought I didn't want to read this book. …moreThank goodness for Goodreads and the people who take time to comment. I just read the first 4 or 5 pages and thought I didn't want to read this book. Thank you Carol Roberts and John!!!(less)

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 ·  3,923 ratings  ·  634 reviews

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Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
where is jonathan dee when they hand out all the literary awards??

because, jesus christ, being a finalist for the pulitzer, while nice, is much less than this man deserves.

and, yes, he has given us another novel about the problems of wealthy white americans. so all of you people who are bored with the affluenza and can't get into a story unless it is about the struggles of the underclass, take a hike. but you're missing out.

because jonathan dee is the real deal. his prose is so natural, so clean
B the BookAddict
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all readers
Shelves: literary-fiction

Jonathan Dee is a master of literary fiction. His language is purposeful, mature and his sentences are a beautiful construct. He expects a grown-up reader. He does not lead you by the hand; he expects you to make certain leaps yourself. I don't think he is an easy read: that is to say, he keeps you on your toes. You simply cannot skim in his novels. You may well miss an integral nugget of information, a gem of a sentence or a gorgeous turn of phrase.

It seems that Ben and Helen Armstead have it a
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
Uhhhhh..This book, I think is asking to be pardoned. I don't know. I might have missed the point. It flowed well for the first quarter of it. I felt like I was taken for a ride on the unhappy-marriage-express but then I got tossed off and felt like I kept missing the bus.

The story is about the fall-out of a marriage; about their behavior afterwards and then how their adopted daughter, Sara thinks of life and her parents etc. but I didn't really get a sense of an actual story. We see what happ
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was anticipating reading this book but was disappointed. I so enjoyed The Privileges. But A Thousand Pardons barely eked out 2 stars, and only because I appreciated Jonathan Dee's last effort so much.

Like some other readers of this book, whose reviews I have looked over, I had a hard time believing that Helen, a divorced middle aged woman who hadn't held a job in many years, would suddenly soar to success in the Public Relations field in the manner Dee describes. And although the description o
Chad Sayban
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
The life of the Armstead family is a mess. Ben’s partnership – in fact is freedom – is in question thanks to his reckless lifestyle. Suddenly forced to fend for herself and her daughter Sara, Helen finds work in a struggling public relations firm in Manhattan. Helen quickly discovers she has a gift for spinning crises into opportunities. But with the biggest client of her career looming over her, will the weight of the past and the distance of her daughter undercut Helen’s second life?

The premis
Patrice Hoffman
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
*Won through a Goodreads Giveaway*

FYI to who ever reads this review NEVER HAVE A MIDLIFE CRISIS! The story centers around a family who has been thrown into the most bizarre circumstances all because Ben Armstead had some sort of breakdown. The heroine turns out to be his wife Helen, who kind of has a coming of age at the ripe old age of 40-something. She is the caracter I most cared about yet loathed at the same time. I wanted her to grow a back-bone and take hold instead of being railroaded int
This book was so not worth the trouble. I was really excited to read Dee's new book, as I loved The Privileges even though it has nasty characters. Any author who can do that is a good author in my book. A Thousand Pardons also contains nasty characters, but unlike The Privileges is all expositional dialogue, silly doings and zero internalizing of anything. There's also very less pardon involved.

Here's the barely there construct. There's a man and a woman, Ben and Helen, who have an adopted girl
May 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
So many books today are being written about failed characters. They do stupid things, get caught, either get forgiven or ostracized , or when the book ends, the reader is left to decide the ultimate outcome. What is the message of these books? Often the main character does heinous things and gets away with it (Defending Jacob, The Dinner), while another character gets blamed for something he didn’t do or for something that seems justified, or for something trivial and is more severely punished t ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I received a copy of this from NetGalley. I had not previously read anything by Jonathan Dee, so I wonder if I'm lacking any important context of the author's work.

I see he is being promoted as similar to Jonathan Franzen, which isn't all that helpful since with Franzen, I have loved one book and hated the other. I see what they're getting at, with the types of characters, but in a loose sense one could make similar comparisons to anyone writing about normal Americans living normal lives with co
Mary Ronan Drew
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
About 30 years ago someone removed bottles of Tylenol capsules from the shelves of a Chicago drugstore, added potassium cyanide to them, and returned them to the shelves. Seven people died. Johnson & Johnson, the parent company, cooperated with the police, FBI, FDA, and media, immediately withdrawing all Tylenol from the shelves, warning people not to take their product, and eventually offering to replace capsules with tablets. Product packaging changed overnight to the belligerent packaging we ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
Very slim book. Very unbelievable. Very sparse. Very rushed. Very forgettable.

The premise was good. A husband who can't bear his boring days, his stay at home wife who's very upset when he massively screws up, and their adopted Chinese daughter who takes the brunt of parents too self involved to pay attention to her.

But, after a nice beginning, the husband goes away to rehab and then jail in shame and the stay at home wife takes a train to Manhattan, goes on 3 interviews, gets a job and then be
May 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is all flash & no payoff. Within 7 pages I read this passage, “Which could only be followed by a momentous silence; but since silence was anathema to Dr. Becket, on the grounds that silence might belong to anyone but vapid professional jargon was something that could bear her own distinctive stamp . . “ & I laughed out loud & thought, Oh boy here we go! but all the pretty words can’t detract from the terrible story & the maddening awfulness of the ending.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Disjointed is the word that comes to mind with the plot of this book. The puzzle pieces were all there (plus a few extra that seemed to belong to a different puzzle altogether), but you had to try too hard to make them fit.

The prose itself was superb. Jonathan Dee's apt observations about a marriage that is in the throes of dying were painful to read, sheer perfection. 'It's like a death sentence coming back to the house every night.' and 'I am bored to near panic by my home and my work and my
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Kerri Strug
Shelves: fiction

Dee is a very good writer. His prose is polished and effortless. His milieu (at least the two novels I've read thus far) is the educated upper middle class. Here, a family falls apart. A marriage that has been in decline for awhile disintegrates, the husband is sued for sexual assault by a young female associate at his law firm and ends up serving jail time for a DWI. His humiliated wife takes their 13-year old adopted Asian daughter and moves from the New York suburbs into Manhattan, where she
Jack Rochester
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Why did I not like this book? Let me count the ways, in no particular order. I did not like the narrator: it presumes a shared perspective with the reader, and I didn't share it. Take, for example, the first sentence: "Helen tried not to look at her watch, because looking at your watch never changed anything...." Why does the narrator address me and my watch? I do not even wear a watch, and if I did, I don't want to hear this narrator telling me what my perception of my watch ought to be. It is ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fairytale with lessons for grownups
Early in “A Thousand Pardons,” Jonathan Dee’s crafty and wise parable of loss and redemption, a seasoned professional describes how the practice of public relations works: “We tell stories. We tell stories to the public because stories are what people pay attention to, what they remember.”

Stories, indeed, are what persuade and entertain and become like stickpins in our brain. And Dee, in his newest tale of soaring hubris and crashing ennui, is a really, reall
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Having throughly enjoyed The Privileges and most of Palladio, I was looking forward to reading another novel by Jonathan Dee who is clearly a talented writer (The Privileges was a Pulitzer finalist).

But this book is pretty much a disappointment on every level. The plot doesn't so much evolve as jump from one convenient stepping stone to the next. The characters are all rather stereotyped. And the basic premise of the story seems flawed. And then, after a long set up of what you think the theme o
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it
2.5 stars, really. Having never read Jonathan Dee before, I had very few expectations for this book, which was a good thing because this book was slow and lacked character and plot development. After a very promising start wherein Ben basically has a meltdown and ruins his seemingly perfect family situation, the book spirals downwards and does not recover. While Ben and Helen's emotional detachment from each other and their lives in general seems real enough, there was very little growth by eith ...more
Anne Brown
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
From the hype comparing Dee to Jonathan Franzen and Richard Russo, I thought I was in for a true literary treat. All to that the fact that he was a finalist for a Pulitzer and I was excited to find a new author.

Sorry to say this book was just so-so. His writing style is good but the content was lacking and much of it bordered on the unbelievable. Since it was a short novel, I went ahead and finished it but certainly don't have any incentive to read any of his other offerings.
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
So much better than The Privileges! I enjoyed most of the characters, I'll spare you my one nagging dislikable one. I thought the story was really a unique twist on an old tale, that being said it did get rather slow in the middle and I think so much more was promised with the main protagonists PR job. Sadly, that fabulous part jot lost somewhere but thankfully I liked the weird turn that made no sense. Possibly, another reader might dislike it. 3.5??? I don't know really. Now I'm confused! ...more
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Dec 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: Netalley and the publisher
Although I would not class A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee as one of the best books I have read, I did enjoy it. The problem is, I can't quite decide what it is about the book tha drew me in. The item in the book that sets the story in motion is a glaringly bad decision made by Ben Armstead, a middle aged lawyer in the midst of a mid life crisis. When Ben decides to have a fling with a summer intern in his office, not only does his whole life start to unravel, but so do the lives of his wife, ...more
Nov 08, 2012 rated it liked it
A Thousand Pardons is a beautifully written and engrossing story about marriage, divorce, celebrity and public relations with their companion wrinkles and tragedies and the ever present need for forgiveness. The characters are not particularly affecting, perhaps too removed from the reader as well as from each other, but their stories are and Dee presents them with skill and insight . The section involving the two men marooned together in the house was amusing and truthful. The ending leaves me ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it
I can't decide whether this is a wonderful book or just a trite light read. I read it because the excerpt on Amazon drew me in so quickly that I was brought up short when the excerpt ended and realized I had blown through 17 pages in about 4 minutes. Then I bought it at an airport bookstore and read the entire thing cover to cover on a flight from San Francisco to DC. These two facts would suggest I loved the book. But I'm not convinced. The story is a cliche tale of privileged suburban marital ...more
Dawn Lennon
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The consequences of major life choice mistakes are the centerpiece of this novel. The characters are themselves compelling and reasonably representative of how successful, 21st century people eventually are forced to confront their flaws.

It's a curious book in some ways. The internal struggles each character faces are informative and unsettling, both the adults and the pre-teens. We get a peek at the disillusionment of an attorney numbed by his life, his controlling wife who expects the ideal fa
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I've always liked Jonathan Dee's writing, although not always his characters, and in this book, I feel as if he was riding above the characters and the story line, never fully entrenched, so I never felt fully involved. A lot happens, a lot of it a little hard to believe, especially the woman who hasn't worked in 13 years who gets four interviews the minute she starts job hunting without any specific experience [has Dee checked out the job search world lately?] and then realizes a stellar nearly ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book for two reasons. Firstly, the first three chapters were quite interesting and I wanted to give the final four chapters a decent go. Secondly, I wanted to be absolutely sure it was as stupid all the way to the end as it was from chapter four onward. And so it was.

This book is made up of psychological Frankensteins - people whose personalities are cobbled together in such a discombobulated way that you cannot possibly believe they could exist, let alone function in any kind of
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 this book kept me turning pages. The characters were likeable. it was like 3 books in one. The focus of the book changed as I progressed
Cherise Wolas
My third Dee novel in about as many weeks. The Privileges opened with a marriage, A Thousand Pardons opens with a marriage imploding. The theme: What does saying "I'm sorry" mean. Published 9 years ago, we've only seen more of the discrepancy between remorse and public relations. It's become the norm among public figures caught in something to make the public mea culpa, no matter how unbelievable that mea culpa is. We're all used to it by now. And it's never trustworthy or sincere. Ben Armstead ...more
Apoorvaa Agarwal
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
My favourite aspect of this book is that it's a well written account of ordinary people having to make difficult moral choices, much like all of us have to in the real world. However, the end was underwhelming. ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
No, no, no, no, no. Lazy and uninspired. Cardboard cutouts acting out a thing I and, apparently, they, don't care about. Motivations remain opaque. I like Dee but this is not his best. I feel like some of the burden of failure should fall on the editing side too. ...more
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Jonathan Dee is the author of six 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.

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