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.