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A Thousand Pardons [Paperback]

Jonathan Dee
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

5 Sep 2013

Ben and Helen Armstead have reached breaking point and it takes one afternoon - and a single act of recklessness - for Ben to deal the final blow to their marriage, spectacularly demolishing everything they built together.

Helen and her teenage daughter Sara leave for Manhattan where Helen takes a job in PR - her first in many years - and discovers she has a gift for spinning crises into second chances. But can she apply her professional talent to her personal life?

A Thousand Pardons is an elegant, audacious, gripping and sharply observed novel about a marriage in ruins and a family in crisis; about the limits of self-invention and the seduction of self-destruction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Corsair (5 Sep 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1472108337
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472108333
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Dee is the author of four novels, most recently The Privileges. 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 programmes at Columbia University and The New School.

Product Description


A Thousand Pardons is that rare thing: a genuine literary thriller. Eerily suspenseful and packed with dramatic event, it also offers a trenchant, hilarious portrait of our collective longing for authenticity in these over-mediated times. (Jennifer Egan)

Guilt, redemption and the American dream of starting afresh are Pulitzer-Prize nominee Jonathan Dee's themes in this thoroughly enjoyable comic tale. (Stephanie Cross Daily Mail)

The American novelist who has his finger on the pulse. (Mark Lawson BBC Front Row)

Deliciously readable. (Irish Independent)

Slickly written and great entertainment. (Evening Standard)

Part relationship drama, part thriller, this is one of our favourite books of the year so far. (Bella)

...shrewdly observed and compulsively readable. (Literary Review)

With his sixth novel, Pulitzer finalist Dee has written a page turner without sacrificing a smidgen of psychological insight. What a triumph. (Kirkus (Starred Review))

Dee is an expert at encapsulating the vacuous marriage of two WASPs. (Stylist)

Dee is adept at meshing the complexities of marriage and family life with the paradoxes of the zeitgeist. In his sixth meticulously lathed and magnetizing novel, he riffs on the practice of crisis management.... [and] nets the absurdities of a society geared to communicate in a thousand electronic modes while those closest to each other can barely make eye connect. (Booklist)

Totally gripping. (Saga Magazine)

A punch in the face of the American Dream, this is a timely meditation on public apology and absolution that suggests you don’t have to forget in order to forgive – or, indeed, forgive in order to forget. (The Observer)

The novel is brief, pacy, intelligent. (The Guardian)

Jonathan Dee is a master of writing about the midlife crises behind the white picket fences. (Grazia)

A Thousand Pardons has already received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic...A must-read for fans of Jonathan Franzen (Irish Sunday Independent)

This is a sophisticated, post-Updike story of a marriage...an engaging, intriguing read. (The Age (Australia))

Jonathan Dee’s sensitively observed tale of three people whose lives are in crisis and who flounder after the disintegration of a marriage is gripping and thought-provoking. (Good Book Guide)

Book Description

New from the author of the critically acclaimed The Privileges, and featured in Simon Mayo's Radio 2 Book Club and Waterstones Book Club. Helen's marriage falls asunder in a spectacularly humiliating, public manner. Thrust into a future that feels like a nightmare, she struggles to come to terms with her husband's crisis, her daughter's estrangement, and her own capacity for forgiveness and reinvention.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spinning and the art of re-invention. 10 July 2013
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
Ben has been sleepwalking to disaster for some time. The meltdown, when it happens, is pretty spectacular and, needless to say, has dramatic consequences for his family. All things considered, his wife, Helen, handles it with remarkable aplomb. But for Sara, their adopted Chinese daughter in her vulnerable early teens, it looks like life is about to throw her another curveball.

When the surprisingly resourceful Helen lands a job in PR, we get some great insight into the world of 'spin' and crisis management. We also get to meet a superb supporting cast including Helen's astute but struggling boss Harvey, Ben's smart small-town lawyer Bonifacio, Sara's rich shoplifting boyfriend Cutter, clip-board nazi Bettina and the famous movie star Hamilton Barth (think: Johnny Depp).

This is a sharply observed and thoroughly engaging read at the heart of which lies the universal need for re-invention. Or is this a uniquely American phenomenon? In any event, Jonathan Dee keeps things moving at a cracking pace and at 270-odd pages, he doesn't outstay his welcome either (something of a rarity these days). I loved it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A well written and enjoyable book 9 May 2013
"A Thousand Pardons" tells the story of Ben and Helen, a well off middle class American family and their adopted Chinese daughter Sara. As the marriage of Ben and Helen breaks down in dramatic fashion, Sara becomes increasingly estranged from her parents.

Can Helen, who in her professional life has to help clients to turn negative events into something positive and apply the same principals to her private life?

I had not previously read any novels by Jonathan Dee so I was not sure what to expect with this novel. The only downside to this novel was that the plot regarding Helen was a bit farfetched and the ending was a bit of an anti-climax as the story just seemed to end without and resolution of the many of the stories.

However, overall what I found was a superbly written novel which kept me hooked on it until the end. I will be looking to read his previous 5 novels as to me this book showed that Jonathan Dee is definitely an author I want to read more of.

I would recommend this book for anyone male or female. The book would particularly be enjoyed those who enjoy intelligent, contemporary American fiction about family relationships and how complex these have become in the 21st Century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom from her family? 16 Jun 2014
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This doesn’t sound like a barrel of fun, but it’s actually delightful in a lot of ways. Ben’s marriage is failing badly as he suffers a kind of crisis of existential angst and ends up on the end of a nasty blow-back as a result of picking the wrong woman to pursue. While he is signed into an institution and then has to do 28 days in prison, his wife Helen accepts the inevitable, picks herself up, sells the house and gets herself a job in a PR company, from where she is head-hunted to a much larger company because of her natural good sense and flair at turning bad publicity into – if not good, then far less damaging publicity.

When she is given tickets for a premier starring Hamilton Barth she can scarcely believe her luck. They had a teenaged fling long before he became a movie star, and when she and her daughter Sarah (who is adopted) attend the premier, they meet again, although Hamilton himself doesn’t seem to remember much about Helen.

Hamilton slips his minders at the end of the evening and ends up on a week-long binge about which he can remember almost nothing. Except the vague feeling that he has done something irredeemable, and indeed, things look bad, though all he has to go on is a lot of blood on a motel bed and a missing woman. It is to Helen he turns for help in unravelling the mystery of Hamilton’s lost week.

These alarming circumstances are treated quite lightly, but not by Helen. What has Hamilton done? Why has Ben bought back their old house? Why is Sarah so relieved that her boyfriend has been arrested – and quite frankly, what the hell is going on? This is a marvellously entertaining novel. There is one loose end that is never tied up, but maybe Hamilton deserves a small sword of Damocles forever dangling? A treat from start to finish with a graciously ambiguous ending.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern story.. 24 May 2013
By jaffareadstoo TOP 500 REVIEWER
In A Thousand Pardons, Jonathan Dee gets into the very heart and soul of marital discord and with great skill he manipulates a story of how two ordinary people cope with devastating matrimonial disharmony.

Ben and Helen Armstead appear to have everything that middle class America can offer and yet all it takes is one afternoon of recklessness and the whole thing falls apart. Ben, a successful lawyer commits professional suicide in an unprecedented act of foolishness, forcing Helen into making some difficult lifestyle decisions. Whilst Ben and Helen stumble around in improbable situations, caught in the middle is their adopted teenage daughter Sara, who is an unpleasant child, but given the emotional upheaval in her life, it's not difficult to imagine why she is so troubled.

However good the narrative is, and believe me, there are moments of sheer brilliance, there are also times when I had to suspend belief, specifically the implausibility of Helen's meteoric rise to success in the competitive world of damage limitation, and the inclusion into the story of a debauched Hollywood movie star, whose tenuous link to Helen's past was rather bizarre. And yet, despite the moral righteousness of the story, I found I empathised more with Ben, whose very personal disintegration was handled with sensitivity and compassion.

Whilst A Thousand Pardons is a very modern story about the breakdown of a marriage, it is also the story of the minutiae of daily life and the seemingly mindless boredom which all too easily invades hopes and dreams.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
A real page turner and enjoyable read. Far more accessible than the author's pedigree led me to think it might be

Ending bit disappointing
Published 5 months ago by C. knock
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
A very good read, rather fable like, but still I couldn't put it down, nothing profound but better than his first novel
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars So Called Thriller Ends Tamely
The story starts promisingly and some interesting situations and characters develop, but the central "murder" isn't properly explained and it ends tamely in "all lived... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Doug Barber
5.0 out of 5 stars Best read in years
Terrific read, great story development and proper conversations. The book allows you to feel that you could know the characters. Real people. Read more
Published 8 months ago by J A B McIndoe
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff - a literary novel with a touch of thriller....
Ben and Helen appear to have an enviable life. Ben has a good job as a lawyer and Helen takes care of their suburban home and adopted daughter Sara. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Wynne Kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect
I really enjoyed this novel up to almost the very end. Comic and real, I'd recommend you read it too. I'll say no more, not to spoil it...
Published 9 months ago by Ransen Owen
3.0 out of 5 stars bland
I read this and kept hoping it would improve. sadly it didn't I felt let down by the way the book ended.
Published 9 months ago by Mrs Marie-Therese Hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars A family romance
I'm not familiar with Jonathan Dee's previous work but a review in the Irish Times prompted me to get this book for my summer holiday reading. It absorbed me from the first page. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Lucia Tilling
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read
I heard about this on Simon Mayo's show and thought it sounded worth my while buying and it was. Fully recommended.
Published 11 months ago by Roo
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing
This book started out with great promise but I got bored with it after a while so stopped reading about half way through. I will give it another go.
Published 11 months ago by Pipsqueak
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