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A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
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A Thousand Pardons

by Jonathan Dee

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206None56,760 (3.25)4
Recently added byEesil, Robbib, wanda.costuros, tamoui, wallerdc, lloyd1175, Swade0710, private library, Vantine
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    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 45 (next | show all)
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 |
This story takes us into the lives of a family that seems to have everything going for them. Ben is an established lawyer, able to provide anything needed for their New York suburban home. Since Helen does not need to work, she is able to focus all of her energy on raising their young daughter. From the outside, everything appears picture perfect, but looks can be deceiving.

Even though we are given the story through various perspectives, it seemed to me to be Helen's story. When Ben loses his perspective of what is important in life, their comfortable life comes to an abrupt end. Not having the security Helen has been accustomed to, she must pull herself together and do what is needed to provide for herself and her daughter. It can be a scary world out there, especially for a woman who has not worked in years.

I think I loved this story because it was so true to form for me. How often do you hear of women having to pick up the pieces from their husbands mistakes? I know this works both ways, but men seem to be more resilient to me, as it is easier for them to start over and find another job. It's tougher for women, especially if they've been a stay-at-home mom for the past 5-10 years.

I didn't necessarily like their daughter, Sara, as a character. That's ok, because I think my dislike of her helped my appreciation of the novel as a whole. Since Sara was adopted she was still trying to find who she truly was, but then with her parents marital difficulties thrown in the mix, she became even more belligerent and confused.

Ben, Helen, and Sara, all come to terms with the crisis that changed their family relationships. They are not by any means happy with the events that took place, but have come to accept that all of them played a role in what resulted in failure. With themes of love, family, trust, forgiveness and second chances you may enjoy this book as much as I did. I think this novel would make a great book club discussion and I don't hesitate in recommending it for personal leisure. ( )
  jo-jo | Jul 18, 2013 |
I was so interested in the direction this book took---I just had no idea where it was heading and the title was really no clue. So many things happening in different directions---I had not heard of Jonathan Dee before but now I will read his previous books! It's wonderful to find a novel about people having the "same" problems of marriage/family but to have it handled in a completely new way---really a very happy surprise to read. ( )
  nyiper | May 6, 2013 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:51 -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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