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A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
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A Thousand Pardons (2013)

by Jonathan Dee

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2694267,215 (3.25)8
What do we really want when we ask for forgiveness? Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home. The change 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. 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.… (more)
  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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» See also 8 mentions

English (46)  Dutch (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
As this is a slim novel you’d expect it to get to the point quickly, and it does - in medias res I believe it’s called. You enter the story to find Helen and Ben at a crisis, but have no explanation of how they got there. You exit in a similar way. The crisis has passed, but you don’t know where H & B will go next.

While not perfect, I liked the fresh feeling the story had. That we didn’t have to wade through their marital difficulties was one, that Helen wasn’t your typical floundering victim was another. Although the miracle job and her huge and hidden talent for it did seem to be a bit of a stretch. I’d rather have had her working at something similar, even part time, to make that seem plausible. Also, she doesn’t just dump all responsibility on Ben, although he has to take most of it. She wonders how her own actions (or inactions) contributed to his dismal state. It doesn’t go further than that and Ben doesn’t blame her; only himself. Kind of nice that. So many men write their male characters in a way that puts their faults, actions and desires at the feet of their women.

I liked Helen, but didn’t understand her much. Her sudden and all-encompassing devotion to Hamilton and his current idiotic situation was out of the blue. Why would she risk her miraculous career for him? It’s weird. Also weird is Sara’s extreme reaction to basically everything around her. She seemed a bit young for that kind of teenage angst and anger, but she has it in spades. A right asshole she is. Deliberately cruel to her mother when she’s old enough to understand Helen’s predicament. Ugh.

Some passages I quite liked -

“The building’s main security system seemed to be its own essential undesirability, which left it all but invisible.” p 52

“...the young executive - who was wearing one of those striped dress shirts with a white collar; Lord, Helen hated those shirts, they were like sandwich boards for assholes…” p 78

A much younger man has just asked Helen out -
“She had no idea what to make of it. Maybe he had some kind of depraved mommy issue.” p 117

Overall well written and presented, but just a little bit too abbreviated in the end. I’d have liked more insight into how Helen comes back to Ben, their lives and their home. It seemed rushed and without a proper explanation I just can’t see it. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Feb 10, 2019 |
This novel was expertly written and an astute character study of people in a modern marriage. I was so happy to read a book that was not written in the first person (the last two books I have read were in the first person) that I got into this book right away. The characters were well developed and I enjoyed the varying viewpoints of all of the characters. An enjoyable, modern novel. ARC from publisher. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
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 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Dee keeps all three of his protagonists sympathetic, which makes this an engaging read, and he writes with a cool precision and light touch. The novel is brief, pacy, intelligent; but it never delves deeply into the complexities and contradictions of America's relationship to redemption. In the end, just as he accuses the American public of doing, Dee is a little too eager to let everyone off the hook, including the reader, and perhaps even himself.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Deeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Deakins, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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