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The Unfortunates: A Novel

2.9  ·  Rating details ·  846 Ratings  ·  153 Reviews
The riveting, hilarious, and epic story of a prominent American family on the cusp of ruin

This extraordinary debut novel by Sophie McManus is a contemporary American tragedy of breathtaking scope: a dramatic story of pharmaceutical drug trials and Wall Street corruption; of pride and prejudice; of paranoia and office politics; of inheritance, influence, class, and power.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Picador (first published June 2nd 2015)
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Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: free-from-work
okay, we're going to ease back into this whole "reviewing" thing with something that is more of an excuse than a review. here's the thing - i have absolutely nothing useful to say about this book. it's very unlike me to walk away from a book and have no opinion on it whatsoever. and maybe it is because i read this in the middle of a lot of very exhausting personal crises, and i had to keep picking it up and putting it down and forcing myself to stay engaged and not finding anything in the book t ...more
Ron Charles
Just often enough, some unknown writer darts from the forest of little magazines to publish a novel that blows away the gathering shades of cultural despair. Last year, there was Smith Henderson’s “Fourth of July Creek,” about a social worker in Montana. In April, Viet Thanh Nguyen published a cerebral spy thriller called “The Sympathizer.” This month, that invigorating surprise comes from a 37-year-old New Yorker named Sophie McManus. Her first novel, “The Unfortunates,” merges Old World elegan ...more
Jun 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, loathed
One of the worst books of recent memory. Ron Charles's Washington Post review should have come with a warning about its unsavory contents. Three characters, an imperious patrician woman dying of a progressive neurological disease (could not have happened to a nicer person), her psychopathic son, and his naive wife. Character is plot, adorned with satirical trappings of royalty, but almost everything happens inside these disturbed characters' heads. Henry James, with some sympathy, succeeded wher ...more
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
I’m a bit surprised that little has been said about this novel. It’s on a couple summer must read lists, and it should be on more.

This is a story of the mega rich: the 1% of the 1% where money means nothing and everything. It’s a story of a family, who is accustomed to so much wealth that they’ve lost all manners. It’s like “The Great Gatsby” only a satire on the elite. Sophie McMannus writes beautiful sentences. Her prose are a delight to read. Her humor is dark, dry and bountiful. I found mys
Beautifully written literary novel explores the lives of three members of an ultra-rich family: an aging matriarch, determined to hide her illness and keep up appearances, her spoiled, damaged and delusional son and his naive, working-class wife. The author skillfully straddles a line between wit and tragedy, while creating an atmosphere of impending doom. With unlikable, yet occasionally sympathetic characters, flashes of humor, and a dark tone, there is almost an epic quality to the story. Giv ...more
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
I just could not finish this.
Just not my cup of tea.
I really don't know how to rate this book. I love / hated it, was blown away and frustrated by it in equal measure.

I started reading The Unfortunates ahead of a reader's retreat at which I would be meeting the author. When I arrived at Booktopia, I was about half-way finished, and having trouble. The book is densely language driven, and character driven, and the characters are slightly absurd, caricatures almost, of themselves - a super-rich, NY family living in a mansion on the sound in CT.

Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The rich are different. They may put their pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else, but that is where the similarity ends.

Sophie McManus has created a story of an imploding family of wealth and privilege. The matriarch, CeCe, is suffering from a neurological disease that her vast resources cannot cure. Her daughter Pat will not talk to her. Her entitled son George never learned responsibility, but he did learn how to use his family name and money to open doors for himself. Her daugh
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Unfortunates

Lately I’ve found that too many page turners manipulate me. I want to find out what happens but don’t actually enjoy reading the book. Finishing becomes an unpleasant compulsion. This is a page turner in which every page is sheer delight. The writing is exquisite as are the plot and character development. There are three main characters. Ce Ce is a very wealthy philanthropist who discovers she may be dying of a serious illness. George, CeCe’s son is a cross brilliantly developed
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide to Books
Really tried on this one but ultimately gave up after 75 pages. The writing style was too clunky and choppy for me. Almost felt like a translation from another language. As for plot, no sense that it was going anywhere- cranky rich old woman and her unpleasant, possibly criminal son living out their lives. Moving on...
Karin Slaughter
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fell apart a bit at the end, which was very disappointing, but I enjoyed it until that point!
Bruce Crown
Sep 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Put this beside the genius social "revolutionary" Russell Brand…

Compassion for the rich because they suffer from the same pains as the rest of us (but in their royalty induced, penthouse apartments) does in fact show us our somewhat cynical side. No I do not empathize with the rich, no I do not love them, no I do not have compassion for my oppressors. Asking me to do any of these things is asking me to kiss and love the boot that suffocates me.

This would be a joke if it didn't attempt in vain t
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book centers around a rich family headed by Cecelia Somners, a generous heiress who is battling a crippling disease that forces her to seek treatment at a luxurious but lonely facility. Her son George is dealing with his own issues; George has created an opera that he wants to open for New York society but it does not get the acclaim he was hoping for and it sets their family into financial turmoil. His wife Iris is an up and coming real estate agent whose face is displayed on billboards aro ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
I had a problem connecting to the characters. They are a selfish bunch of entitled people and to me, I don't find it shocking the wealthy are 'just as bad as the rest of us.' They are people I wouldn't care to know. Money exonerates, many of us know this and George certainly uses his wealth. Oddly, the bitterness from Cecilia Somner is fitting, made her more realistic. George is pitiful and I wanted to like his wife Iris, who will all know will never really fit in but I didn't. I did like 3D, th ...more
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully wrought literary novel, THE UNFORTUNATES is the polar opposite of a beach book. It is designed for readers who appreciate leisurely lingering in an intricate narrative net that sinks down deeply into the mental stirrings of three characters: an old wealthy woman (whose body and social power are waning), an elite son (whose eccentric take on himself and world results in bad judgments) and the non-elite son’s wife (whose hopes and dreams are yet to be realized). Overall these minds e ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A poignant story with some beautiful writing. Some insight into how the "other half" live. I really felt for the characters and was curious to see how it would wind up. Money changes everything and it's curious to see its effect on otherwise "normal" people, of which anything can happen depending on behavior.

Thanks to Goodreads for a copy to read and review, honestly. A worthy, insightful read.
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. I picked it up based solely on the cover. I highly recommend this book. The characters were endlessly entertaining especially CeCe. Extremely talented author and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Irene Rendon
It was not a pleasant book to read. I thought the author wasted my time by going on and on. The character was just dreaming or something. A total waste of my time.
Hmm. This book, in terms of my enjoyment of it, had a sort of bell curve. It took a while to draw me in, but by the middle I was having a good time--when I wasn't reading it, I was eager to find out what happens next. Then it gradually descended from there.

Some have termed the novel a satire. To me it's not that. What is is is a very polished and sincere work, extremely competent on the sentence level, with a sprinkling of very fine sentences indeed. I am sure McManus is capable of knocking our
Christine Zibas
"Each day, a ghost of the day before. Where is there proof that any given moment belongs to her, and not to a stranger down the hall?"

Author Sophie McManus is the Edith Wharton of the digital age, and "The Unfortunates" is her satirical (and sad) critique of the upper class and their miseries. Among the broader brushstrokes she makes are that wealth cannot buy health or well-being -- although it can buy an exquisite recovery room overlooking a lake (mother Cecilia) or let you indulge your mental
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My heavens, what a book. I completely understand all the Goodreads reviewers who are giving it one or two stars. This is not an easy book to get into, nor does it offer you sympathetic and vulnerable characters. (Well, vulnerable they may be, but sympathetic they are - mostly - not.) Instead, McManus gives us a portrait of a family imploding, try as the matriarch will not to allow it.

I experienced difficulty starting it, but around page 75, something seemed to turn for me, and I thought I starte
Susan Becraft
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A breathtaking debut

What a remarkable book written by Sophie McManus. Normally a fast, but careful reader, I savored every word. As I neared the final chapters, I realized that I was reading at a snail's pace, not wanting the book to end. The Unfortunates harkens back to the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton. Anyone who has a love of language and impeccable writing will be, I suspect, in awe as I was.

The story is as complex as its characters. Cecilia Somner, daughter of a robber
Bridget Foley
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On a whim I put THE UNFORTUNATES in my carry-on for a recent plane trip. I opened it while the plane was taxi-ing to the runway, thinking that I would be buying a wireless pass and getting some work done in the air. But Sophie McManus' beautiful incisive prose hijacked my trip... before I knew it, the plane was landing and I was being forced by baggage claim, rental cars and other obligations to shrug off the world of the 1% of the 1% so sharply realized within THE UNFORTUNATES pages. McManus is ...more
Janyce Rodgers
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Nice Surprise!

I choose books for the weirdest of reasons, a title, a book cover , mention of an author's first novel. I seldom read reviews (though I hope you are reading this one), I pick, I choose and I read cover-to-cover.

The Unfortunates is a "comfortable" novel. I do not mean "simply written." In fact, it is filled with twists and turns, nuances. By "comfortable" I mean I cared about the characters- even those who were broken. I cared about the misunderstandings that made up life for Iri
Polly Krize
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Appropriately titled, the story of these seemingly fortunate people is an engrossing read. Identifying and sympathizing with characters has always been a signal to me that I will enjoy a book, but these characters are anything but sympathetic. On first glance mother CeCe and son George are privileged and invulnerable because of the family fortune, enabling them to live in the lap of luxury. A masterful exploration of how these two a
Mar 06, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I greatly disliked this book. The overall tone and format was off-putting, as were the characters and their lifestyles. I often read books were I can't relate to the characters personally yet I still enjoy the story. This was not one of those cases. I couldn't tell if the author was being serious here either -- I think she may have these lofty goals of being a "great American writer," to which I greatly disagree. It's like she's trying wayyyyyyy too hard to do something different and just comes ...more
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. An absolutely stunning piece of writing. The story of a Rockefeller-esque family's downward spiral, the power of this novel is not really the story--which is sort of slight--but in the gorgeous prose the author has created. Each sentence is so carefully wrought, filled with description and insight that rarely even comes to a more seasoned author. I tend to skip through books so quickly these days, that it was a pleasure to take my time and savor each beautifully crafted sentence. The ...more
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is: hilarious, unsparing, endlessly compelling, and about the most beautifully written book you'll ever come across. The voice of every central character is delivered in assured, precise, yet still surprising language; and the novel is completely at ease whether describing the intricacies of a drug trial, or the dress rehearsal of a spoiled rich guy's opera. I can't remember ever reading prettier prose, and I certainly can't remember such lush sentences offering such biting social com ...more
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 rating for me. Well written debut that focuses on an aging heiress, her troubled 40 year old son, and the son's new wife. CeCe becomes ill and finds in more ways than one what money can and cannot buy. I've read several reviews on this site that complain about the unpleasant characters. I agree on the unpleasant, but found the characters to be fully formed and believable. My main complaint is that I found the last 1/4 or so of the story to be a bit rushed. Still, a worthwhile read. Recommen ...more
Barbara Matros
I am quite partial to excellent prose, so I delighted in the beautiful sentences crafted by Sophie McManus. Her decision to utilize interior monologue to tell most of the story allows her show off her writing chops. For me, the interior monologue became a little heavy and I slowed down in the middle of the novel. Then, as I knew the characters well, I embraced their vulnerabilities, their decisions and the denouement of the novel.
Great debut novel. Hope there are more to come.
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Around the Year i...: The Unfortunates, by Sophie McManus 2 19 Jan 14, 2016 06:05PM  
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Sophie McManus is the author of the novel The Unfortunates, published by Farrar Strauss and Giroux. Her work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Memorious, Tin House, and other publications. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Saltonstall Foundation, and the Jentel Foundation. She teaches writing and literature in Brooklyn, New York.
More about Sophie McManus

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“We need books,” Victor says now, “because we are all, in the private kingdoms of our hearts, desperate for the company of a wise, true friend.” 2 likes
“still closed CeCe says, “Don’t call me she. It’s rude. Pronouns are for the absent. I’m right” 0 likes
More quotes…