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The Privileges: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Dee
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

BONUS: This edition contains a The Privileges discussion guide.

Smart and socially gifted, Adam and Cynthia Morey are perfect for each other.
With Adam’s rising career in the world of private equity, a beautiful home in
Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable
standard, successful. But for the Moreys, their future of boundless privilege is not
arriving fast enough. As Cynthia begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice
that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family’s happiness and
to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility.
The Privileges is an odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and
guided above all else by their epic love for each other.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Dee's four prior novels (Palladio; etc.) cast an intelligent, calculating eye on the culturally topical, which sparked comparisons to the writings of Updike, DeLillo and Franzen. The wedding of Adam and Cynthia Morey, a young and charming couple who quickly expand into a brood of four, begins Dee's fifth. Adam and Cynthia's nuanced personalities and playful, sincere exchanges form the novel's empathic backbone as Adam begins to profit immensely from risky side ventures while working for a hedge fund. Dee establishes a trust with his readers that allows Adam's murky business ethics to escape the spotlight of outright moral scrutiny, and by showing how Adam endangers his privilege—while his children endanger their own lives—Dee reveals how risk is a kind of numbing balm. April, Adam's daughter, responds to the boredom of material comfort by resorting to drug-induced self-effacement. The novel climaxes as the children face the possibility of their own death, though lucidity after mortal danger is fleeting: I can feel myself forgetting what it feels like to feel, April says. Dee notably spurns flat portraits of greed, instead letting the characters' self-awareness and self-forgetfulness stand on their own to create an appealing portrait of a world won by risk. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In his previous four novels, Dee has dramatized peculiarly American forms of absurdity and moral bankruptcy with search-and-destroy precision and calculated understatement. That approach serves him well in this ensnaring tale of alienating wealth, in which Dee breaks fresh artistic ground with the sheer beauty and quiet poignancy of his prose. Picture-perfect and ferociously confident and ambitious Adam and Cynthia marry right out of college and quickly have children, April and Jonas. Adam excels at a private equity firm in Manhattan, but, impatient for the big money, he also launches a high-stakes insider-trading venture. The gleaming Moreys become so impossibly rich they don’t seem quite human to others, and, of course, money doesn’t preclude suffering. Dee deftly avoids cliché as Adam and Cynthia go against type by being fiercely loyal to each other, April takes desperate risks, and Jonas, the brightest and most creative of the clan, embarks on an inquiry into outsider art that lands him in a strange and terrifying predicament. A suspenseful, melancholy, and acidly funny tale about self, family, entitlement, and life’s mysteries and inevitabilities. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • File Size: 1227 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1849015937
  • Publisher: Random House (January 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003852K70
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,968 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sociopathy, Narcissism and Wallstreet February 7, 2010
By kamc
Post-Madoff, post-TARP bailout, post-those scandalous bonuses, you, like many others, may have come to the conclusion that stratospheric success on WallStreet isn't exactly the product of genius, acumen, work ethic or determination as much as the product of narcissism and sociopathy. And according to this novel, you'd be right.

So when a handsome, charming sociopath meets a beautiful, proud narcissist in college, first comes love, then comes marriage... Wallstreet is destiny.

Adam has no regrets, he could not care less about yesterday and he has nothing resembling emotional bonds outside of his own nuclear family and nothing but his wife really matters as she satisfies any need for the justification of his ruthless ambition. Cynthia on the other hand, cares little for those beyond her own nuclear family unless they gratify her self-image in some way. Both are not just unsentimental. They are asentimental. She briefly has small a crisis of self-faith about her performance as a top notch mom over a minor incident which sets off a rousing round of justification for Adam's insider trading. Insider trading and illegal offshoring of ill-gotten funds is therefore noble because it's for the family cause, but infidelity would be an unspeakable transgression in this relationship.

I'm not sure what purpose the kids serve to further this vignette unless it's because everyone has them, maybe even especially narcissists and sociopaths. And the kids do serve up a couple of different perspectives on what a casual rather causal relationship with such wealth breeds and Dee invests a lot of time in them plot-wise.
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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Embrace of Excess November 30, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Adam and Cynthia Morey are rich. Not just rich, but obscenely rich. We meet them at their lavish wedding, two starry-eyed children pretending to be adults, right at the cusp of all things good. And we follow them as they quickly become parents to April and Jonah and begin to accumulate more and more and more...stepping over the dark side to insider trading and unmarked overseas bank accounts.

There has been much written today about the spoiled, irresponsible, and unethical affluent -- their values, their lifestyle, their implosions. Characters don't necessarily have to be "likable" to be interesting; for example, Tom Wolfe in Bonfires of the Vanities, Caitlin Macy in Spoiled, and Claire Messud in The Emperor's Children create solid narratives based on the most wealthy Americans. For the first half of this book, it appeared to me that Jonathan Dee would rise to this strata.

Indeed, at the beginning, Mr. Dee carefully crafts a narrative of Adam and Cynthia, and leads the reader to the point of their temptation -- where they view Adam's mentor's extravagant "country" house. But then, inconceivably, the threads begin unraveling and the story begins falling apart.

The focus of the book shifts to the children -- April and Jonah -- who are nowhere as interesting as their parents (who also begin to drift into the landscape of cliches). Dare I say they are actually boring? They are the children of privilege and their lives become insular and one-dimensional -- April's flirtation with physical and substance abuse danger, Jonah's yearning for something "real". They drift from one experience to the other, always narcissists without the in-depth back story to make them appealing to the reader.

At one point, Mr. Dee writes, "It wasn't about being rich per se.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When a $250,000 Bonus isn't Enough......... December 9, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an interesting novel, reminding me of F. Scott Fitzgerald who portrayed the affluent and John Updike who revealed inner lives of Americans who respond to personal turmoil and obligations. But Jonathan Dee moves beyond typical with Adam and Cynthia who prove throughout the book they are a superbly well-matched couple. They view themselves as invincible and only need each other.

They marry young, the story opens with their wedding, and they both exude rare confidence. Cynthia has meager feelings for anyone except Adam and her elusive father. Adam appears to have stepped out of his blue collar family and has found Cynthia, a true partner to help him triumph.

What they both lack in conscience is made up in their aspirations for wealth and power. Adam is the star at a small investment firm where he does well every year earning large salaries and larger bonuses. But it is not enough for him. He steps out of the legitimate realm, hooks up with a small time crook and sets up a separate operation which boosts his income making him a rich man, who does not get caught. His timing is perfect; he shuts down this venture and later starts a hedge fund where investors beg him for inclusion, reminiscent of Bernie Madoff. They have two children, the daughter is the stereotypical spoiled brat who can do anything and her parents will bail her out no matter what. The son has more depth and some despair. Dee's characterizations of this family are rich with significant milestones in their lives.

This could have been a trite story of how the rich live and it's never enough, but Dee's writing is excellent and I know people like Adam and Cynthia. They are real to me. Nothing dreadful happens to them, they in truth don't care about anyone.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant read, but plot didn't go anywhere
Dee is a good writer and his style is readable, but the hinted-at marital tension never materialized, and there was no real conflict to be resolved. Read more
Published 17 days ago by A. A. Curtis
3.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight entertainment
I'm not on board with all the folks who found a lot of weighty issues and thought-provoking social commentary in this novel. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Mike
3.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of story certainly - of two very unlikable people
At first I didn't like the book, because I didn't like the central characters. Adam and Cynthia Morey are intelligent, well-educated, attractive and wealthy. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ada Ardor
2.0 out of 5 stars Ugh! Why bother.
There are so many really well written books about interesting thought provoking topics why read books like this that tell a story about rich people wanting to get richer. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Julie W. Snyder
1.0 out of 5 stars dreadful
Didn't care about characters. Plot didn't hold together. Can't believe I wasted my time finishing this! Wasn't at all interesting!
Published 2 months ago by L Calkins
3.0 out of 5 stars bland
So many abandoned plot lines it's hard to imagine what the author had in mind. I read to the end waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever did.
Published 4 months ago by Stephen Petti
4.0 out of 5 stars The Privileges
A quite well written account of life at the top of Wall Street. I'd consider this novel a chick lit book and for it's kind it's well written and captivating.
Published 5 months ago by Book Nut
2.0 out of 5 stars What's the point?
While he displays occasional flashes of insight his vitriolic style is also a bit off-putting. The story never coheres - are we supposed to like these people or not? Read more
Published 6 months ago by George M Woods
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked it a lot
Compelling reading about the accumulation and mindset of the newly wealthy. Could easily have been poorly written but it was a fun, thought-provoking read
Published 7 months ago by TMack
1.0 out of 5 stars Wholly unsatisfying
I had such high expectations after hearing a review of "The Privileges" from Maureen Corrigan on NPR. What a disappointment. Read more
Published 9 months ago by AmazonFrederic
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More About the Author

Jonathan Dee is the author of four novels, most recently Palladio. 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 programmes at Columbia University and The New School.

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