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A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
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A Thousand Pardons

by Jonathan Dee

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2094355,966 (3.24)5
  1. 00
    The Man Who Disappeared by Clare Morrall (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: Both novels are based on women finding inner reserves of strength after being spectacularly let down by their husbands
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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
It's so much a cliche in contemporary fiction, that you can almost assume it's the plot of every new novel: the suburban couple, mind-numbingly unhappy, despite their perfect home and family. In some cases writers are able to create successful characters, regardless of the trappings of their stereotype, while others are crushed by the weight of it.

In A Thousand Pardons, Jonathan Dee seems quite aware of the fact that he is writing a familiar frame from the beginning. Rather than giving readers a painstakingly detailed account of the missteps that lead Helen and Ben to a therapist's couch for their "Date Night", Dee describes with amazing subtlety the monotony that can come with several decades of a marriage. He is then quick to cut to the big event that leads to their separation, putting the major plot in motion. Helen thrives in her newly single position, and the pace of the novel does, too. Unfortunately, the characters' behaviors in the second half of the novel seem to steer off track, hanging ever close to the cliches Dee worked to avoid. Still, as a whole, A Thousand Pardons is a refreshing story outside what you'd expect from a seemingly usual suspect. ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
I bought this because I enjoyed The Privileges so much. This is a frustrating read after that, the prose being pretty leaden and the story formulaic. The setting has changed from advertising to public relations. Same difference in many ways and the message is the same - good-hearted people who respond in a natural way to the various 'crises' their job throws at them are more successful than the jaded and cynical workers (Helen, the unlikely virgin P.R. savant, saves every client by getting them to confess their sins, except for the Archbishop with gay priest problems where she is sadly deflected by other problems...). However, the main plotstrand is not Helen's unlikely success in finding and succeeding in the world of work after years as a housewife, but her failed marriage, husband and adopted Asian daughter. Unfortunately, much of this is equally unbelievable. So - I kept going, when I would normally give up on a 3 star after a few chapters, because it was easy reading when I needed it, but Mr. Dee can write much better than this. ( )
  Roseredlee | Jun 25, 2015 |
There are two ways to look at this book. On the one hand, it’s set in a world where all men are either charmless, borderline alcoholics or criminals (and in some cases all three), and most of the women are pretty nasty too. There does however exist one woman – the central character Helen – who is pretty nice, and despite being out of the workforce for many years, she manages to slot into a PR firm and single handedly discover that contrary to all the accepted practices of public relations, the answer to every crisis is to apologise, apologise, apologise. Wear a hair shirt, beat your chest, the whole shooting match. Not only this, the world at large beats a path to her door, desperate to pay over the odds for her to tell them to apologise. I can’t help wondering why nobody ever hit on this amazing panacea before.

On the other hand, it is a beautifully written book which allows itself time to pause and reflect, and is generous with the personality time allotted to its characters. What initially seems to be a fairly standard tale of a wife finding inner reserves of strength after being spectacularly dumped on by her husband takes unexpected turns. There are humorous moments, thought provoking moments, and moments of high tension. It was interesting, too, to learn about the business of PR and crisis management.

In the end, the view that wins out for me is the second. In spite of all my cynicism I loved this book. I could scarcely put it down and was sorry when it ended. I had never heard of this author before but will definitely be seeking his work out in future. ( )
  jayne_charles | Jan 14, 2014 |
This novella, which I received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review, is frustrating in its simultaneous nature as a beautifully crafted but uneven tale.

There is no denying that Jonathan Dee can craft a beautiful sentence. His prose is among the best of contemporary authorship. There were multiple times when I paused my reading just to appreciate the beauty of how he weaves his language. The problem is that this does not translate into an ability to weave together a larger tale. The back half of the story fades out fast, and even in the strongest parts, you feel jerked around too much as a reader.

The story itself has so much potential. The family is dysfunctional in ways that hopefully not too many readers identify with. But that very dysfunction seems to be what causes Dee to lose control as writer at times; it's too much for even him to handle.

I felt invested in the characters and story, a credit to the author, but I never felt like I got the resolution I needed. If Dee struggles at this length, I wonder how he would handle fuller fiction. But there's so much obvious talent that I have high hopes for his future efforts. He can be among the best; he just needs to work on his flaws just like his characters do. ( )
  JAshleyOdell | Nov 11, 2013 |
The life of the Armstead family is a mess. Ben’s partnership – in fact is freedom – is in question thanks to his reckless lifestyle. Suddenly forced to fend for herself and her daughter Sara, Helen finds work in a struggling public relations firm in Manhattan. Helen quickly discovers she has a gift for spinning crises into opportunities. But with the biggest client of her career looming over her, will the weight of the past and the distance of her daughter undercut Helen’s second life?

The premise of A Thousand Pardons had me interested in the beginning of the story. The writing of the first few paragraphs flowed well and had me wondering what would become of this nuclear family that had suddenly gone nuclear. Ben was out of control and about to pay for his transgressions. But I was more interested to see how Helen and Sara would deal with Ben’s fall. Unfortunately, that’s where the wheels fell off.

The primary character of Helen just didn’t really work. This housewife suddenly manages to not only find a job in an industry she has no experience in within the biggest city in America, but she basically takes over and is able to see the correct path when nobody else around her has a clue what to do. It is a nice concept – naive outsider comes to the big city and proves they have what it takes. The trouble is Helen simply doesn’t come off as convincing in being able to pull off that one-in-a-million transformation. From there the plot just becomes more contrived and clichéd.

The pacing of the writing was also painfully plodding. Dee really failed to gain my interest in this family and failed to convince me that any of it was at all plausible. The story turned into a series of daily diary entry by somebody who really wasn’t aware of their surroundings. It felt like Dee became bored with his own story. I think A Thousand Pardons held some promise, but in the end it really failed to deliver anything interesting or unique. I can’t really recommend this to anybody. ( )
  csayban | Jul 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Deeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Deakins, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812993217, Hardcover)

For readers of Jonathan Franzen and Richard Russo, Jonathan Dee’s novels are masterful works of literary fiction. In this sharply observed tale of self-invention and public scandal, Dee raises a trenchant question: what do we really want when we ask for forgiveness?
 
Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home—a change that weighs heavily on his wife, Helen, and their preteen daughter, Sara. Then, in one afternoon, Ben’s recklessness takes an alarming turn, and everything the Armsteads have built together unravels, swiftly and spectacularly.
 
Thrust back into the working world, Helen finds a job in public relations and relocates with Sara from their home in upstate New York to an apartment in Manhattan. There, Helen discovers she has a rare gift, indispensable in the world of image control: She can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes, spinning crises into second chances. Yet redemption is more easily granted in her professional life than in her personal one.
 
As she is confronted with the biggest case of her career, the fallout from her marriage, and Sara’s increasingly distant behavior, Helen must face the limits of accountability and her own capacity for forgiveness.

Advance praise for A Thousand Pardons
 
“That rare thing: a genuine literary thriller, with a trenchant, hilarious portrait of our collective longing for authenticity.”—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
 
“A page turner without sacrificing a smidgen of psychological insight. What a triumph.”—Kirkus (starred review)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:02 -0400)

Forced back into the working world after her lawyer husband's downfall, Helen discovers a talent for public relations and is tempted away from her dysfunctional family by her childhood crush, who needs her professional assistance.

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