Synopses & Reviews
Smart, socially gifted, and chronically impatient, Adam and Cynthia Morey are so perfect for each other that united they become a kind of fortress against the world. In their hurry to start a new life, they marry young and have two children before Cynthia reaches the age of twenty-five. Adam is a rising star in the world of private equity and becomes his boss's protege. With a beautiful home in the upper-class precincts of Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful.
But the Moreys' standards are not the same as other people's. The future in which they have always believed for themselves and their children — a life of almost boundless privilege, in which any desire can be acted upon and any ambition made real — is still out there, but it is not arriving fast enough to suit them. As Cynthia, at home with the kids day after identical day, begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family's happiness and to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility.
The Privileges is an odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and guided above all else by their epic love for each other. Lyrical, provocative, and brilliantly imagined, this is a timely meditation on wealth, family, and what it means to leave the world richer than you found it.
"Dee's four prior novels (Palladio; etc.) cast an intelligent, calculating eye on the culturally topical, which sparked comparisons to the writings of Updike, DeLillo and Franzen. The wedding of Adam and Cynthia Morey, a young and charming couple who quickly expand into a brood of four, begins Dee's fifth. Adam and Cynthia's nuanced personalities and playful, sincere exchanges form the novel's empathic backbone as Adam begins to profit immensely from risky side ventures while working for a hedge fund. Dee establishes a trust with his readers that allows Adam's murky business ethics to escape the spotlight of outright moral scrutiny, and by showing how Adam endangers his privilege while his children endanger their own lives Dee reveals how risk is a kind of numbing balm. April, Adam's daughter, responds to the boredom of material comfort by resorting to drug-induced self-effacement. The novel climaxes as the children face the possibility of their own death, though lucidity after mortal danger is fleeting: 'I can feel myself forgetting what it feels like to feel,' April says. Dee notably spurns flat portraits of greed, instead letting the characters' self-awareness and self-forgetfulness stand on their own to create an appealing portrait of a world won by risk." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A suspenseful, melancholy, and acidly funny tale about self, family, entitlement, and life's mysteries and inevitabilities." Booklist
"Gilded young go-getter creates, not always legally, a cocoon for his family in Dee's mostly buoyant fifth novel about money, family and mortality....Thoughtful and bracingly unpredictable, though the lack of a resolution is frustrating." Kirkus Reviews
"Dee notably spurns flat portraits of greed, instead letting the characters' self-awareness and self-forgetfulness stand on their own to create an appealing portrait of a world won by risk." Library Journal
"Dee is graceful, articulate and perceptive, and often hilariously funny....[His] writing is so full of elegance, vitality and complexity that I'm happy to entertain any notion he comes up with." The New York Times Book Review
"[A]n odd, transfixing account of the rise and rise of a 'charmed couple'...Composed in Dee's typically elegant style — gorgeous, winding sentences in which high diction and low brush up against each other..." Los Angeles Times
An odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and guided above all else by their epic love for each other, this work is a timely meditation on wealth, family, and what it means to leave the world richer than one finds it.
BONUS: This edition contains a "The Privileges "discussion guide.
Smart and socially gifted, Adam and Cynthia Morey are perfect for each other.
WithAdam's rising career in the world of private equity, a beautiful home in
Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable
standard, successful. But for the Moreys, their future of boundless privilege is not
arriving fast enough. As Cynthia begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice
that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family'shappiness and
to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility.
The Privileges is an odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and
guided aboveall else by their epic love for each other.
About the Author
Jonathan Dee is the author of four novels, most recently Palladio. He is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, a frequent contributor to Harper's, and a former senior editor of The Paris Review. He teaches in the graduate writing programs at Columbia University and the New School.
Reading Group Guide
1. What do you think the author was ultimately trying to say about wealth and greed? Do you agree with him?
2. Adam and Cynthia have a bit of an obsession with leaving their pasts behind them. Do you think this serves them well? What about their children? Does it ultimately help or hinder them?
3. There are no specific references to dates in the novel, giving the story a sense that it is suspended in time. Why do you think the author chose to do that?
4. Did you find yourself able to sympathize with these characters throughout their rise? How important or necessary do you think it is for the reader to be able to do that?
5. There are many thematic elements in the plot: wealth, family, risk, love. Which resonated for you the most?
6. Would you describe Adam and Cynthia as amoral, or as having their own sort of morality? Is there a difference?
7. Many of Jonathan Dee's novels have been referred to as social critiques. Do you think he meant for The Privileges to be interpreted that way?
8. This book came out on the heels of a global financial meltdown. How do you think the characters would have fared in today's financial climate?
9. Jonas develops obsessions--unusual even for someone his age--with music and then with art. What do you think he's searching for?
10. The novel skips through time, with each chapter beginning a few years later than the previous one. Do you like this technique? Why do you think the author chose it?
11. What did you make of Cynthia's loyal attachment to her absent father?
12. April and Jonas respond to their family¹s enormous wealth in very different ways. Why do you think that is? And do you think either of them truly has the capacity to change at the end?
13. What do you think the next generation of Moreys (presuming there is one) will be like?
14. Do you think Adam and Cynthia got what they deserved in the end?
15. What does it mean, finally, to be privileged?