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Entitlement by Jonathan Bennett


by Jonathan Bennett

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Book received through minibookexpo.com

Andy Kronk is from a lower-class family with little chance of ever leading a privileged lifestyle until he is discovered by an elite private school for his hockey abilities. There he is quickly befriended by Colin Aspinall, who is a member of one of the wealthiest families in Canada. Andy is thrown into the lavish yet complicated life of the Aspinalls when he is taken under their wing and spends his summers living with them.

Years later, biographer Trudy Clarke is doing an expose book about the lives of the Aspinall family and is trying to her to uncover the secrets that lurk within their personal and professional lives. Andy thought he had severed his ties with the Aspinalls until Trudy comes knocking on his door and they embark upon an in-depth interview forcing him to confront the demons of his past.

That is all I choose to say about this book’s plot because I feel that revealing any more would ruin the reading experience. There are a number of twists and turns that arise and I found myself really surprised by the turn of events in this book.

After a few minutes into my reading, I completely forgot that this book was a fictional and became engrossed into the lives of the Aspinalls and the mesmerizing hold they had over Andy. I really liked that I got a glimpse into each one of the characters lives and that alternative perspectives were included because it helped give a well-rounded account of what was going on. Jonathan Bennett’s writing is so compelling and he paints such detailed pictures of his characters that I actually had to look them up just to be sure that they were merely a figment of his wonderful imagination!

This book has so many interesting facets to it and brings up meaningful issues such as greed, power, identity and sexuality in an insightful and almost poetic way.

I read this book in one sitting because I literally could not put the book down. This is one of the best books I’ve read all year and I cannot recommend it enough!!

http://bookopolis.blogspot.com ( )
  sherbear917 | Dec 28, 2008 |
What is it about The Great Gatsby, anyway, that makes it so great? Sure, it’s spectacularly well-written, with a simple eye for the poetic and an ear for nuanced dialogue. It’s a good story, rife with classic themes of love, betrayal, greed, and simple human compassion. But there’s myriad of novels with the same themes, the same quality. What makes Gatsby stand out among its numerous peers?

I believe it’s in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s choice of narrator. Gatsby and Daisy are rich characters, but it takes a special kind of talent to write from the perspective of someone who has everything and make them at all relatable. No, Fitzgerald’s coup was adding an outsider to the mix in the form of Nick Carraway, the man who yearns to be one of the elite, yet has too much of the real world in him to ever fully join the top one percenters. Nick’s distance allows us empathy, and a greater understanding of Gatsby’s foibles and Daisy’s charms. Without him, the novel would likely appears as the rich simply being rich. This may belittle Fitzgerald’s talent, which I would never seek to do, but it’s a tricky proposition otherwise. Hemingway pulled it off in The Sun Also Rises, but oftentimes the wealthy are better served in art as objects to appreciate from afar.

Jonathan Bennett understands this dilemma, and there are true echoes of Gatsby’s themes throughout the pages of his novel Entitlement. The abundantly wealthy elite of Gatsby is personified in the pages of Entitlement as the Aspinall family, a Canadian dynasty who function as both objects of adoration and society-page gossip fodder. “We long for their example, grace, and luxury,” Bennett’s Carraway-proxy Andy Kronk tells a journalist at one point. “They remind us life is not democratic, or equal, or just. They fuel our selfish desires; they harden our egalitarian resolve. We yearn to be them if we only could; we loathe them because we will never be. They are the beloveds, the entitled, the unaccountable ones, and they walk among us, breathe our air. They both own and ignore us.”

Like Carraway, Andy is by far the most likeable character to inhabit the pages, a lower-class man with childhood (and father-encouraged) dreams of becoming a hockey player. His school friendship with Colin Aspinall leads to an intensely close relationship with the entire Aspinall clan, a Canuck version of American dynasties such as the Kennedys and the Bushes, with echoes of Conrad Black. Like those families, the Aspinalls are constantly cloaked in a cloud of suspicion and scandal, albeit from a more sedate Canadian point of view. As the patriarch Aspinall instructs Andy, “even when Canadians were not speaking in hand-wringing double negatives, they were, at least, being polite - if not outright pre-emptively apologizing for some, as yet to occur-affront.” We are a uniquely accommodating people to Bennett’s mind, and it is this discrepancy between our outwardly accepting natures and those of our more raucous neighbours to the south that drives much of Entitlement’s substantial entertainment value.

As Entitlement opens, Andy has voluntarily removed himself from the Aspinall’s sphere, living in a cabin and pondering his next life move. Interrupting his sojourn is Trudy, a journalist charged with the task of writing an Aspinall tell-all biography. Andy is an encyclopedia of the Aspinall’s considerable skeletons, but has a few of his own he is not eager to share. Even less eager are the Aspinalls themselves: daughter Fiona, jet-setter a la Paris Hilton (but far more substantial in intelligence and personality); son Colin, mysteriously unaccounted for; and patriarch Stuart, far more powerful and ruthless than anyone suspects.

While these characters are outwardly stereotypes of the rich and restless jet set who habitually grace the pages of Hello! and the screens of TMZ.com, Bennett accomplishes the not-insubstantial task of humanizing the aristocracy in a age where we seek their comeuppance with the fervor and bloodlust of Roman spectators to gladiatorial combat. Bennett has a gift for nuance, and while the actions of the Aspinalls may skirt parody, Bennett is skilled enough to craft their scandals as heart-breaking rather than ridiculous. He’s also astute enough to understand the true natures of the powerful as being no different than those of the populous middle-classes. Consider Stuart’s sizing-up of Fiona’s boyfriend, an American of serious privilege with designs on the White House:
"He wants to walk into a room one day and have a man in a uniform with four stars say, Yes, sir! when he gives an unpopular order. He wants to watch that man hate him to the core of his being, but be unable to do anything about it…He wants, metaphorically, to bust his father’s balls."
If that isn’t one of the most concise summations of Bush Jr.’s entire reign, I don’t know what is.

Bennett also displays considerable flair for the caustic and witty, especially when it comes in the form of Mr. Aspinall’s attitude toward Canadian society. To Stuart, Canada is a nation of studious underachievers, a country of citizens almost snobbishly proud of their unassuming natures: “Fourth…was the ideal position for a Canadian to finish: a good outcome, but not crudely so, and at fourth and just one off the podium, Canadians positioned themselves for a prize more coveted by them than any shiny gold, silver, or bronze medal: a chance to display publicly just how polite and impossibly good-natured they were after having come so close.”

Now, is Entitlement the Canadian Gatsby? The Awesome Aspinall? It’s probably too early to tell, but likely not. Entitlement has a few subplots that peter out rather than satisfy; the life of the journalist Trudy is covered to a great degree, but Bennett’s ultimate intention with her is unclear.

But Entitlement is not, despite what I've written above, Gastby Redux; despite the parallels, Entitlement is its own creature, examining the lives of those we admire/despise with gravity and graciousness. In the end, it's a saga about family, a universal theme if there ever was one.

Small flaws do not serve to denigrate Entitlement’s many strengths; indeed, they serve to emphasize the quality and power of the work as a whole. There is real lyricism in Entitlement’s narrative, and a sureness of hand that reveals Bennett as a true Canadian find. Entitlement may stumble occasionally, but who cares when the rest is this good? ( )
  ShelfMonkey | Sep 11, 2008 |
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Back in the fall Andy Kronk escaped north to this cottage on Broad Lake.
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Delving into the concept of identity, this gripping novel tells the story of one man's complex entanglement with an elite and powerfully wealthy family. Written in forceful and poetic prose, this provocative tale takes an honest look at class and the familial bonds that can both protect and destroy.… (more)

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ECW Press

2 editions of this book were published by ECW Press.

Editions: 1550228560, 177041035X

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