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The Chocolate Money Paperback – September 18, 2012

3.4 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Darkly funny...compulsively readable..."
"A novel to make you laugh, cringe, and appreciate your mother."
--O, the Oprah Magazine
"Debut author Norton, the great-great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller, writes fearlessly, and the results are compelling. Reading this novel is like watching a train speed toward you, and you’re paralyzed on the tracks." 

“Despite the sweet title, this debut novel by Ashley Prentice Norton is a dark tale of maternal sadism, twisted sex, and self-destruction. Norton is a fearless writer.”
— James Frey, author of Bright Shiny Morning

"I am not a reader easily shocked, and I was shocked by the brave twists and daring turns of Ashley Norton's compulsively readable The Chocolate Money. This story of a girl coming of age in Chicago, heir to a chocolate fortune and all the spoils and hungers that fortune sparks, is fearless and utterly unputdownable."
— Jennifer Gilmore, author of Something Red and Golden Country

"Not since Mommy Dearest  has there been a transcription of a complex mother-daughter relationship as powerful. I rooted with all my heart for this girl. Ashley Prentice Norton’s writing is so gripping, vivid, and moving — so realistically drawn — it leaves even the most well-adjusted reader with the chilling knowledge of what it’s like to be raised by wolves. The Chocolate Money is devastating and unforgettable."
— Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day and A Year and Six Seconds

"The Chocolate Money  is the perfect page-turner, offering a window into the life of the richer-than-rich, complete with scandalous sex, wild parties, a snobby prep school, and a tyrannical train-wreck of a mother. But it's also something more—it’s a perceptive portrait of a young woman growing past the world that shaped her. Norton writes with empathy and wisdom about mothers and daughters, and the pain of loving a parent you must escape."
-- Jill A. Davis, author of Ask Again Later

“This is the darkest comedy I've ever read, overflowing with unflinching observations of the elite that are both laugh-out-loud and heart-wrenchingly poignant, all woven with the searing wit of a truly gifted new voice in fiction.”
—Jill Kargman, author of Wolves in Chic Clothing

From the Inside Flap

As addictive, decadent and delicious as chocolate itself

Set in 1980s Chicago and on the East Coast, this electric debut chronicles the relationship between an impossibly rich chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her sensitive and bookish young daughter, Bettina. Babs plays by no one’s rules: naked Christmas cards, lavish theme parties with lewd installations at her Lake Shore Drive penthouse, nocturnal visits from her married lover, who “admires her centerfold” while his wife sleeps at their nearby home.

Bettina wants nothing more than to win her mother’s affection and approval, both of which prove elusive. When she escapes to an elite New Hampshire prep school, Bettina finds that her unorthodox upbringing makes it difficult to fit in with her peers, one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover. As she struggles to forge an identity apart from her mother, Bettina walks a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction.

As funny as it is scandalous, The Chocolate Money is Mommie Dearest, Prep, and 50 Shades of Gray all rolled into one compulsively readable book.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780547840048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547840048
  • ASIN: 0547840047
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By DelusionalAngel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
So this is pretty much a book about two people; Babs Ballentyne and her daughter Bettina. Babs, an heiress, is the most inappropriate woman one could imagine raising a daughter. She's selfish, abusive to just about anyone and everyone she comes into contact with, and has no sense of what to sensor (unless of course censoring herself can benefit her somehow). As we're introduced to the duo, Bettina is about to turn eleven. Already she knows details about her mother that many women wouldn't share with their best friends or gynecologists. Being raised in such an inappropriate way has turned Bettina into a mess. She never seems to have enjoyed toys. Finds books for children of her age a bore. Analyzes people, art, herself. Fantasizes about men her mother is with. And most of all longs for love so badly that she'll take it or something that could lead to it anyway she can find it, even if it means being used - by her mother, by boys, by friends.

This is most definitely NOT a book for everyone. You should go into it knowing that, yes, it has a lot of material that people will find offensive -- from a child character being told of sexual acts in great detail, child abuse / neglect, underage drinking / sex, just general debauchery. The people in this book are a flat out mess. If you go into that knowing that and being fine with reading a book about such messed up characters, then this a good book, not perfect, but still good.

We follow Bettina from the time she is turning eleven until the time she is a grown woman of twenty-six. From being her mother's little sidekick accessory (when convenient) to just starting to really realize who she is out on her own. From not knowing her father is to knowing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read a slightly sanitized excerpt of this novel in Town & Country magazine, and pre-ordered it on the 'zon. When it showed up on my Kindle carousel I tore into it immediately and kept reading 'till the battery died, then found it on my phone's kindle app and finished the last pages like someone was trying to take the book from me. So yes, it's a compelling novel, and if you like your poor little rich girl stories with a mean bite, this is a great quick read.
The author's characterization of the mother figure Babs is so brittle with gallows humor and menace, it puts momzillas like White Oleander and Joan Crawford in the shade. This is a take-no-prisoners portrait of maternal narcissism, which seems only fair when you read some of the brutality the poor little daughter-hostage, Bettina, endures. Author and Rockefeller heiress Ashley Pierce Norton has said in recent interviews that this is all 80% fiction, 20% fact; however, much has been made of the uncanny parallels between art and life, since her real Chicago socialite mom was a notorious party-thrower like Babs and did in fact send out nude family xmas cards one year, much like the ones Bab sends out w/her and Bettina in the altogether. Whatever the percentages, Norton seems to be slaying some small personal demons here, and with such gritty and witty prose, it's a hell of a read. I can already see Paltrow playing Babs in the movie version (crossed fingers!).

Sidebar: gritty and witty prose are one thing, twisted messed-up passages of sex and brutality is something else altogether. Norton's harrowing description of events in the book, while well-written and full of a strange pathos, are still more lurid than one can imagine, and some passages make Fifty Shades of Grey read like a '50s Dick and Jane primer (no pun intended); so if you have any curious minors about, set the ol' password on your Kindle while reading this one.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Just like chocolate, this story offers numerous notes. Its splendid cover and catchy title are attention grabbing; neatly packaged and presented as if a box of fine chocolates. Sweet. While the quality of the writing isn't Italy's renowned Chauo or Amedei, it certainly is better than Hershey's or Russell Stover. Author Ashley Prentice Norton excels in giving distinct voices to the mother and daughter characters, Babs and Bettina (respectively). However, once readers meet them, they are as predictable as the 'maps' found in those drug store boxes of chocolates.

As the heiress to a chocolate company fortune, we are initially intrigued with Babs' lifestyle; meaningless and excessive. It can't be said that her parenting skills are lacking--they simply don't exist. And it's in this setting we meet her little girl, Bettina. The child's yearning for affection is pitiful. How could we feel anything but sympathy for this rich, unloved waif? This is a character to root for--or not.

Indulging in the first bite of chocolate is heavenly. But after the third piece, nuances blend and each loses its unique character. Unfortunately, the same applies to the lives of Babs and Bettina. While settings may change, they don't. We hope for a different ending but, who knows...?

If you disliked Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, pass on reading The Chocolate Money. Auto-eroticism and S & M abound here. Innocence yields to pathos and what was, at first, appealing, becomes oppressively bitter and no longer sweet.
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