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The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
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The Privileges

by Jonathan Dee

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I'll spare you the diatribe about how a certain swear word is replacing the need to use intelligent, colorful, descriptive vocabulary and just say this: if you feel the same way I do about that, skip this book. ( )
  fefferbooks | May 12, 2014 |
Well written and well plotted--in this sense, a good book. But I found it hard to feel invested in characters as selfish, insular, and unlikeable as these. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
I liked the writing style but found the characters to be nothing special. Though Adam & Cynthia Morey are so profoundly wrapped up in themselves as a couple that it's enough that they think they're the apex & acme of everything. They are correct in a way. They are the apex & acme of their little world & I do mean little. It's a tight bubble they've constructed for themselves that even their children can't breach. It almost made for an interesting character study. Sadly, in the end, I didn't feel that there was all that much to Adam & Cynthia or their children to catapult them into being truly interesting. They simply weren't that deep & since they were content to be that way, I was content not to care much one way or the other.

I didn't care that general morality didn't come into most things that propelled Adam & Cynthia or that they were deeply interested in the acquisition of wealth. Adam & Cynthia, we're told in the outset, are "brilliant & beautiful" and ready to take the world (or at least Manhattan) by storm. So it's not the most original aspiration but it's at least an aspiration & there's nothing wrong with wanting more. Over time, I believed the "beautiful" in both of them. Adam worked to maintain his & Cynthia coasted on her looks & youth & was content as long as she was the youngest & prettiest in the group. I had a more difficult time buying into their "brilliance". Adam was financially savvy & had a penchant for risk that propelled him & so he made a lot of money. When he was passed over for promotions because he didn't have the requisite degree, he didn't consider that he should get said degree, he felt it was a flaw in the system. He seemed already not to understand why the rule should apply to him. That he turns to illegal means to amass even more wealth was no surprise to me. Adam felt entitled so nothing else mattered. Cynthia was a dilettante who more or less found herself in the role of Mom and became all the things she sneered at before. All without one scintilla of irony or introspection. Adam & Cynthia, don't do introspection or look into the past. They find it a waste of time. They live in the "Today". This is a recurring theme throughout the book. So much underscored by the lack of ties they have to anything or anyone. They don't have friends & don't keep in contact with the families they came from. They don't even vacation in the same place twice until Adam needs to make drops & pickups to the offshore bank in Anguilla. What they are is supremely impressed with themselves & highly self-congratulatory. Since there was no one else around close enough to be supremely impressed with them 24/7 it's just as well that they did that themselves. People were impressed from afar though. Besides, Adam & Cynthia would have been put off by copious accolades from others because of the sheer disdain & disregard they had for the opinions of others.

I have always enjoyed stories where the characters aren't terribly likable so I didn't need to like any of the Moreys. What I wanted was to get to know them but once it was clear that they didn't do that, I was a bit disappointed. They weren't interested in who they really were so there was no way for me to connect with them more deeply. It's not the worst thing in the world but it did make Adam & Cynthia's turn to caring about the Morey legacy, laughable. I'm positive that they didn't even know what that means. It was a twisted & comedic turn in the last chapter of the book, given everything laid out before. Twenty-two or twenty-four years have elapsed since their wedding in the first chapter & they still don't have any idea of what it means to be a part of a family & can't see the world outside of their couplehood. Adam has amassed wealth. Cynthia participates in & chairs many charities. Neither has fostered in their children what wealth is for anything other than the acquisition of possessions & building a cocoon. Nor have they ever bothered to define what it means to be a Morey, for their children. Everything for Adam & Cynthia begins with Year Zero (their wedding) & that never changes. There is no before. No grandparents. No stories of Adam & Cynthia's childhoods (which were typically middle class, not tragic or deprived). No uncles, cousins or even friends that knew them when. There are no stories. No histories to cotton onto. No sense of continuity. Yet, Adam & Cynthia think they're in the league of legacies. How they, in their brilliance, missed that it's more than just net worth is beyond me. They have two children who have neither drive, determination, purpose or any vision of what they want for their lives or the future. For all the tony schools & best that money can buy, they aren't even shown to have been particularly gifted in any way that propels them into any career path. It's not even mentioned what university, if any, April graduated from. Neither April nor Jonas has a clear idea of what their parents do, from employ to charity, to be invested in anything but calling for the plane or asking for money. Adam & Cynthia never bothered to include their children in anything so it's insane that they'd think either would care about any sort of legacy. The Moreys don't do continuity & sadly, the book ends before Adam or Cynthia realize that their children are exactly who they taught them to be.

Overall, a decent read. Great for vacation or airport time. Not too long, too deep or moralistic. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
At the wedding of Adam and Cynthia Morey, Conrad, Adam's brother describes them as a "charmed couple". They are the perfect American man and woman, educated, beautiful, full of life, and with aspirations to rise above their middle clas and somewhat troubled beginnings. The book is how they do this - becoming faboulously wealthy - Adman in the financial world of Wall Street. Cynthia dedicates herself to her childrean and ensures they want for nothing. Jonas and April become the sterotypical NYC bored and spoiled adolescents. Adam and Cynthia become worldwide philanthropists. The motto of the Morley's is to never think about the past, that each day is the future. A wonderful look at what wealth and priveldge can mean. The language and pace are just right. Really enjoyed this - reminded me of the atmospher of Gatsby, but in the 21st century and with all the warts. ( )
  CarterPJ | Apr 30, 2013 |
I'm giving this novel three stars because I enjoyed the first half which is about the parents. The second half is about the two spoiled children of these parents. I felt the story fell apart during the second half.

The Privileges was on the Top 40 Books of 2010 list. It was listed at Number 18. I had read no reviews and, since I'd had it for a while, I decided to read it so I could check it off the list. On the same list are Room, Freedom, Unbroken, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Mr. Peanut,and so many more books which I considered way better than this one. I'm wondering how it even got on the list!

The protagonist's main purpose in life is to make as much money as possible so he can give his family as many possessions as they desire, even if it's done illegally. Otherwise, this guy is so shallow and so is his "perfect" wife. You can only imagine how their children turned out.

Mr. Dee has done some excellent writing, but this novel is not his best. ( )
  pegmcdaniel | Mar 3, 2013 |
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A wedding! The first of a generation; the bride and groom are just twenty- two, young to be married these days. Most of their friends flew in yesterday, and though they are in Pittsburgh, a city of half a million, they affect a good- natured snobbish disorientation, because they come from New York and Chicago but also because it suits their sense of the whole event, the magical disquieting novelty of it, to imagine that they are now in the middle of nowhere. They have all, of course, as children or teenagers, sat through the wedding of some uncle or cousin or in quite a few cases their own mother or father, so they know in that sense what to expect. But this is their first time as actual friends and contemporaries of the betrothed; and the strange, anarchic exuberance they feel is tied to a fear that they are being pulled by surrogates into the world of responsible adulthood, a world whose exit will disappear behind them and for which they feel proudly unready. They are adults pretending to be children pretending to be adults. Last night’s rehearsal dinner ended with the overmatched restaurant manager threatening to call the police. The day to come shapes up as an unstable compound of camp and import. Nine hours before they’re due at the church, many of them are still sleeping, but already the thick old walls of the Pittsburgh Athletic Club seem to hum with a lordly overenthusiasm.
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Becoming wealthier and more socially connected throughout their marriage, Adam and Cynthia Morey also find themselves increasingly subject to the temptations of excess and risky behavior while their children struggle with their own privilege-based challenges.… (more)

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