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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A STUNNING PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED
This stunning short novel is about the rapid disintegration of a marriage that should never have happened. Both parties to it -pretty boy writer Ned and kind of pretty but desperately unfulfilled Isabel-- are basically unattractive types: the husband is a taker and a user, the wife seems doomed to dissatisfaction, starting with the disillusionment of their sex life. Their...
Published on October 8, 2012 by David Keymer

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm...Not Into These Characters...
Prosperous Friends
by
Christine Schutt

My" in a nutshell" summary...

This is a book about two rather odd dysfunctional couples...their lives and their loves.

My thoughts after reading this book...

Whew...this is a beautifully written book with stark truths and character studies. This is the kind of book that I...
Published on November 8, 2012 by PattyLouise


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A STUNNING PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED, October 8, 2012
This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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This stunning short novel is about the rapid disintegration of a marriage that should never have happened. Both parties to it -pretty boy writer Ned and kind of pretty but desperately unfulfilled Isabel-- are basically unattractive types: the husband is a taker and a user, the wife seems doomed to dissatisfaction, starting with the disillusionment of their sex life. Their marriage is already unraveling when they become entangled with an older couple who seem to have what they've never gotten: a relationship, however incomplete it may be in many respects, that allows them to move forward through life together. The older man, Clive, is a successful painter, a serial adulterer and a roaring egoist, but his wife, a poet, has found a way to make it work between them, where the young couple just scar each other terribly before moving on to separate, who knows what kind of, lives.

The prose in this novel is luminous. Schutt uses alliteration repeatedly, creating waves of sound that just beg to be declaimed like the best poetry or an epic: "Might they not be released and made green again at some greater god's touch?" "g - g- g..."

The final paragraph in the book floats forward on cushions of alternating front-end "p"s, "w"s, "c"s and "ch"s, "s"s and "sh"s: "For eating rather than feeding his guests, the one-eyed giant Polyphemus lost his eye. Pious mortals who stick to the code fare better. Like the poor old couple --what were their names?- who offered all of what they had for the comfort of gods in disguise: the best chair, their last chicken, the cask of wine now sour but the gods make it sweeter.... etc., etc. [ending:] So it is that in dying they have only enough time to cry: 'Farewell, dear companion,' before they turn into trees, a linden and an oak, sprung from one trunk."

This is a book where the small touches are as telling as the narrative line. Schutt captures in two sentences what an old woman's hand looks like to her. She describes the nature that surrounds her characters in Maine -a nature that the poet notices (she writes about it), her painter husband only notices when some aspect of it engages his painterly eye and Ned and Isabel and Sarah, the painter's daughter, cruise through oblivious.

The story is told at a slant, the narrator outside events, so that passages slide obliquely into place as you read them, unclear at the start but then acquiring context and significance. There are no waste words in this book. The story is almost wholly about five characters. (The fifth is the painter's awkward and unhappy middle-aged daughter, who feels rejected by him. And she's right about that.) Only the painter's wife emerges as an attractive human being, but that's alright: Schutt reminds us that even the most self-involved people can feel and hurt.

It's a really good book. I hope lots of people try it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come and Meet the Wavy Words of Author Christine Schutt, February 16, 2013
By 
Elaine Campbell "Desert Dweller" (Rancho Mirage, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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Not such reading Nightwood by Djuna Barnes several years ago have I come across such original writing by a female novelist as this book contains. Now I admire Jane Hamilton for her virtuosity, though I find her subjects too mundane; Paulette Jiles for her ability to sustain poetic prose over hundreds of pages. But what do we have here in this briefly flowing book--words in and out, going somewhere and then receding. Sort of like an imitation of our thoughts on a green, shady day.

Ordinarily I would not choose to read a book about a shaky marriage, maybe two of them, though one is older and more solid. Compromise has set in and all is found suitable. Adjustments have been resolved and semi-life is lived. Not so the younger couple who never seem to get to know one another. They hardly even try. They are more interested in being known. Affection is not a common bond.

However, when I read the description by John Ashbery, perhaps our greatest living modern poet, of this work as "pared down but rich, dense, fevered, exactly right and even eerily beautiful," my resistance dissolved. I trusted the integrity of Ashbery's recommendation and I'm glad I did because it led me to the reading of this book.

Upon reading the first chapter (just a few pages), I had to stop. "Wow!" I thought. "What did I just read?" Time for a reread already? The writing, like musty wine, cries to be mulled. I found myself pausing many times during the reading of this fluid prose, constantly surprised by original phrasing, images and even tone. Rewind, fast forward, then rewind again. Then on to the next sighting of rarity. Rarified?...An example, not taken directly from the text, of the author's inclusion of wordplay. Another quality of her unusual writing.

So if I appear to be in awe, I am. How Christine Schutt's future work develops and how her exploratory nature will find nurturance, maybe even healing, in the almost broken, the disconnected, the artistic plea will be something to follow from the reader's own stance and place.

A major talent here. A quick, sailing read through the harbor of the unique.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm...Not Into These Characters..., November 8, 2012
By 
PattyLouise "Patty" (The lovely East Coast!) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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Prosperous Friends
by
Christine Schutt

My" in a nutshell" summary...

This is a book about two rather odd dysfunctional couples...their lives and their loves.

My thoughts after reading this book...

Whew...this is a beautifully written book with stark truths and character studies. This is the kind of book that I love...and yet...this book and its characters...though exquisite in their oddities...did not appeal to me at all! OMG...my dislike for these characters was fierce. The first couple...Nick and Isabel...were just sad and pathetic...mismatched? They never seemed to find a true connection. And the second older couple...Clive and Dinah...oh my goodness...Clive didn't even like his daughter let alone his wife...and his attraction for Isabel was just plain weird. This short novel bounced all over the globe...England, NYC, Maine...with Nick and Isabel floundering with their lives, careers, writings...wherever they went.

What I loved about this book...

This author packed tons into this short little book. She writes beautiful and lovely sentences. I loved her words without loving the book.

What I did not love...

Unfortunately I strongly disliked these characters and their lives...I could not get past their wastefulness...of time, talent, people...the situations with Isabel and the mouse and dog were just creepy. I particularly did not like Isabel...at all...she seemed passive...lost...pathetic.

Final thoughts...

I was not able to engage with these characters but that did not stop me from reading and finishing this book. And if you are drawn to dysfunction and characters you like to puzzle over...you should not pass this book by!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "There may be cures to loneliness but marriage isn't one of them.", November 8, 2012
This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
While Schutt's characters in this novel aren't my favorites, her prose is, as always, unassailable. Prosperous Friends follows the unhappy spiral of a mismatched couple from one location to another, London, New York, Maine, Ned Bourne conscientiously engaged in writing his memoir, Isabel, ironically, a chronic reminder of his shortcomings as a husband. Unsuccessful at meeting one another's needs, either emotional or physical, the stunningly attractive pair always draws attention, but offer little beyond the façade of their beauty. Each is isolated in his/her perceptions and expectations, Ned too often ruminating over his past lover, the now-married Phoebe; Isabel, slim of stature and appetite, mourns the premature loss of a child, yet harbors no real urgency to create another, the couple's attempts as stunted as their devoted self-absorption. Contrast arrives in the person of painter Clive Harris and his poet-wife, Dinah. Though the generally outrageous Clive has a difficult relationship with a truculent daughter, his marriage is stellar, Dinah the perfect, sane complement to the larger-than-life artist who invites Isabel to Maine for the summer.

Arriving at Clive's guesthouse with Ned in tow, anticipating the artist's rendering of her image on canvas, Isabel is ambivalent about her husband's company, yet convinced of the folly in leaving him behind. The Harris union, with Clive's effusive personality and Dinah's tolerance of her husband's excesses- including Clive's predictable sampling of Isabel's physical charms - easily overshadows the younger couple. Ned and Isabel offer a meager meal compared to a bountiful feast, love measured in generosity instead of emotional penury. Truly, these are not characters I might choose to know better, but with an extraordinary grasp of language and the nuances of human behavior, Schutt layers her pages with insights and images that flow smoothly over even the rough terrain of a couple on the verge of disaster. There is a breadth of impressions to be savored in Schutt's short novel, a writer whose eyes miss nothing. Luan Gaines/2012.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is "Poetic Fiction" an oxymoron?, November 4, 2012
This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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Christine Schutt writes well, there's no doubt about it. As a poet, though, not your normal novelist. The book is made up of images, moments in time, stages in a relationship, oblique encounters bereft of the usual machinery to connect one part to another in linear narrative. Yet a story does emerge, a story in which little happens but much is revealed.

It begins with a young married couple, Isabel and Ned Bourne, both writers, both beautiful, both very much in love -- though Isabel, despite Ned's best efforts, is anorgasmic -- a minor detail, or sign of something deeper? It is Ned's postdoctoral year in London, and they are both in awe of the history, the theatre, the literary heritage, and rich friends who can cart them off on a whim to Rome or Florence. Other friends follow, in New York and later in Maine; it is a marriage characterized by semi-tolerated infidelity.

Eventually, out of the many acquaintances, another couple emerges: Clive Harris, a celebrated painter in his seventies, and his wife Dinah, a poet. Though Dinah also also accepts her husband's serial adultery, somehow their marriage works. Such shape as the novel has comes from the gradual emergence of the Harrises into the limelight, eclipsing the disintegrating Bournes.

The jacket blurb compares the book to James Salter's LIGHT YEARS, and I agree, in that both deal with the marital problems of artistic couples in a slightly precious impressionistic way. But I remember being enthralled by the Salter whereas Schutt, despite her brevity, could not imprint any part of the book on me sufficiently to remain in my mind when I was a mere forty pages on. So, despite the beauties on almost every page, I could barely glimpse the architecture of the book as a prose poem, and had very little investment in it as a story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The marriage of two self absorbed people, March 18, 2013
This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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Christine Schutt is a mega talented writer. Ned Bourne and his wife Isabel travel all over the continent, looking blankly for that ultimate "bohemian experience", heads full of books and paintings. As is the case with most with most extreme artists, they end up discovering that their hankering is not for each other at all but for an ideal which is always somehow evasive. Schutt does not write in an orthodox fashion for prose--if a novel like A Nest of Ninnies were combined with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, it would be this. Though this isn't the best book I've read all year, it does hold a fascination mostly because effectively Schutt drives home the reality of perfectionism, and how absurd it can look from a detached, but somehow also deeply internal, viewpoint.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless and frustrating, June 27, 2013
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This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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Despite the many low votes, I went into Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt with high hopes. It appears my displeasure joins the others.

Writing in a choppy, stream of consciousness style, Schutt makes reading a chore instead of a pleasure. This would be acceptable if the rewards were worthwhile, but none of the characters is admirable, amusing, or interesting and the plot is thin and contrived. There were countless times I had a tough time figuring out what was going on because key events were buried within excessive verbiage. In the end, this novel begs the questions "What's happening, who cares, and why should I?"

There are those who love novels like this, difficult to read, taxing, frustrating, and, at least superficially, pointless. However, they will claim there is sweet fruit beneath the thorny exterior. With Prosperous Friends, I found nothing but the pointlessness. Not recommended at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, a timeless tale of self absorbtion, March 26, 2013
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This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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This could easily be set in the Jazz age.

Waifishly lovely Isabel and Ned her attractive husband of less than 4 years, met at Columbia University in graduate school, have travelled the world, and are now summering on the Maine estate of Dinah (a poet) & Clive (a renowned painter 50 years older than Isabel).

Isabel and Ned marriage is not as golden as their looks. The sex is unfulfilling, they are unfaithful physically. Ned wants more from Isabel and Isabel wishes he wouldn't. Isabel grieves the loss of a pregnancy. Ned obsesses over a lover to a degree Prince Charles would find familiar.

Dinah and Clive are really no better. The difference lay in the diminished expectations that age and experience give them. Clive's ego, compulsive infidelity and childlike embrace of life is accepted, companionship is all Dinah is looking for so she is happy. Clive has carte blanche to act as he wants with Dinah a perfect companion. If it just weren't for his pesky 30 something daughter Clive's life would be perfect in his eyes.

Ned's postdoctoral year in London, was a fever of literature, art, history, trips to Europe compliments of their rich acquaintances and infidelity. Similar to that in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

Isabel comes from old money. Ned is embarking on a writing career and seeks wealthy patrons. Isabel wants solitude (to figure out `Can this marriage be saved').

The interest for me was the journey, the characters had little appeal to me once I got to know them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical writing, Fascinating characters, January 13, 2013
By 
Clifford Garstang (Staunton, Virginia USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
If you like lyrical sentences and complex characters, but don't need to have a raucous plot, you'll like this book very much. I did. The writing is stunning, and the characters of Ned and Isabel are fascinating. And there IS a plot. It's just not one that involves much mystery or action. Consider this book the antidote to Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. The enjoyment of that book was in its breathless pace and surprise (fueled, it has to be said, by deception), but the characters were flat and implausible. Here, the reader practically feels Ned and Isabel in the room with him.
Maybe because they're writers? They meet at Columbia. They marry, too soon, probably, they go to London, travel on the Continent. They come back and they're not very happy. He's struggling to find his voice--he writes short stories and can't get a collection published, imagine that--and she's just floundering. And then there's Phoebe, Ned's ex-girlfriend. Isabel is jealous, sort of.
More fascinating characters: Clive and Dinah. Clive is a somewhat famous painter (and uncle of Phoebe's husband Ben). Dinah is his current wife. Sally is Clive's depressed daughter.
And sex? Schutt's writing style is elliptical, and so much of what happens is missing, but is there just the same. Beautiful stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Drawn into this life... not a book... a life, January 10, 2013
This review is from: Prosperous Friends (Hardcover)
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Found myself drawn into this life of the characters in the book. It is more than a book, its a exploration of love, how we delve into it and build or lose ourselves.
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Prosperous Friends
Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt (Hardcover - November 6, 2012)
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