Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Privileges by Jonathan Dee

I picked this randomly off the new book shelf at the library. The cover looked like a Vanity Fair magazine photo and for some reason I thought the story might be like the articles in that magazine: stylish but not shallow. Ah, the effect of a good cover!

The Privileges is about a power couple, Adam and Cynthia, and it follows them from their wedding day through Adam’s rise in the financial world, to their days as New York City philanthropists. The story wasn’t boring and Dee is a good writer. Even though it’s about rich people in New York, it’s not overloaded with superfluous descriptions of shopping and restaurants. There’s also a lot of relationship analysis, which I like.

What I didn’t like was the book’s amorality. Cynthia is cold and harsh, and she treats her family appallingly. Adam justifies his insider trading as some kind of gift from on high, like, because he’s smart enough to figure out a way to do it without being caught, that makes it okay. Dee refuses to judge his characters or provide any kind of divine retribution, and I found that unsatisfying. I really wished the whole thing WAS a Vanity Fair article. It could have used some of that magazine’s “take them down a notch” approach to the rich and famous.

(Book 48, 2010)


Sarah Laurence said...

I recall reading a review of this novel in the NYT and deciding to pass. I’d find the amorality off putting too.

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