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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting family...interesting novel
I'm giving "The Privileges" five stars because I was caught up in the dynamics within the Morey family - Adam and Cynthia and their two children, April and Jonas - and their relationships with the people and situations outside the family unit. Cynthia and Adam, both from solidly middle-class families, met in college and married upon graduation. They were, from the start,...
Published on 12 Mar 2010 by Jill Meyer

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Wrong Turn...
This book came fêted with enthusiastic endorsements from the likes of Jonathan Franzen, Jay McInerney and The New York Times, the story of upwardly mobile Adam and Cynthia Morey taking on Manhattan and making it work for them. Interestingly, McInerney made the point in his review that the first chapter alone 'was worth the price of admission', all those wedding guests...
Published on 15 Mar 2011 by Boot-Boy


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting family...interesting novel, 12 Mar 2010
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Privileges (Hardcover)
I'm giving "The Privileges" five stars because I was caught up in the dynamics within the Morey family - Adam and Cynthia and their two children, April and Jonas - and their relationships with the people and situations outside the family unit. Cynthia and Adam, both from solidly middle-class families, met in college and married upon graduation. They were, from the start, a single unit of two, which quickly expanded with the births of their two children to a unit of four. Both were estranged from their birth families, though Cynthia is reunited with her father on his death-bed. She had a "removed" relationship with her mother. Adam's parents died relatively early in the marriage and he was on "removed" terms with a younger brother, Conrad. Adam did phenomenally well in business in New York and Adam and Cynthia were quickly vaulted to the top-echelon on Wall Street earners - and spenders.

What I found interesting about Jonathan Dee's portrayal of the Moreys and their children was he didn't take the easy way out and make Adam a typical Wall Street-shark, with no morals (though he did do some shady speculating) who cheated on his wife, finally replacing her with a series of "trophy-wives". He could have made Cynthia a typical NY society "social X-ray", whose only interest was in spending Adam's money as fast as she could on houses and clothes and art. Dee gives a nuanced look at Adam and Cynthia. They were NYC achievers who were, at the same time, devoted to each other and to their two children. Even though they spent large amounts of money on themselves, they also established a foundation to help the many disadvantaged in both America and abroad. The two children, particularly April, were more broadly drawn and seemed to disappear often into "heir-dom" with the attendant problems of drugs, promiscuity, and aimless living.

I liked the book and while I didn't "like" all the characters - particularly Cynthia, at times - I was interested in what happened to them. I think you can't ask more than that with a novel.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Wrong Turn..., 15 Mar 2011
By 
Boot-Boy (Gloucestershire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Privileges (Paperback)
This book came fêted with enthusiastic endorsements from the likes of Jonathan Franzen, Jay McInerney and The New York Times, the story of upwardly mobile Adam and Cynthia Morey taking on Manhattan and making it work for them. Interestingly, McInerney made the point in his review that the first chapter alone 'was worth the price of admission', all those wedding guests sweating it out in a Pennsylvanian heat wave. And he's right, that first chapter really is a great piece of work and persuaded me that I'd chanced upon a winner. The problem was that very gradually, after that marvellous start and some of the earlier set pieces, the story seemed to unravel. A hundred pages from the end, I began to suspect that Dee had lost his way - as I had - and fifty pages on I just knew I wasn't going to enjoy the ending - or quite understand what it was he was trying to say. And I didn't. It felt like a cop-out, as though Dee couldn't find the loose ends to tie up, and give his readers - this reader, at least - what they wanted. After such an encouraging and entertaining start his story just... took a wrong turn and ran out of steam. Having said all that, I'll give Dee the benefit of the doubt and count The Privileges a tiny glitch for a writer of obvious talent, a superior stylist and perceptive social observer who's probably going to make me eat my words with his next book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THEY HAVE MORE MONEY, 2 April 2010
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This review is from: The Privileges (Hardcover)
Jonathan Dee's fifth novel, "the Privileges" is an elegantly written, intelligent but still accessible tale of the rise and rise of a golden couple in New York in the period just preceding the current financial crisis.

"The Privileges" begins with a finely crafted - though perhaps two long in a 250 page book - 32 page portrait of Adam and Cynthia Morey's wedding on a sweltering day in Pittsburgh and traces their story until their children, April and Jonas, reach early adulthood. The Moreys are certain in their love for one other and in their destiny. Adam advances effortlessly through the Master of the Universe phases from investment banking to private equity to founding his own spectacularly successful hedge fund. The symptoms of growing mega-wealth are dropped casually into the narrative through references to "the jet," the "weekend chef", the 23rd anniversary party for which Adam hires the entire New York Public Library, and the Foundation. Eventually the Moreys have so much money that they need "to hire people just to help them figure out how to give it away."

Dee maintains narrative momentum throughout. He achieves this less through plot architecture than through a series of well wrought set pieces ranging from the wedding scene through the visit to the legendary boss's country home, the gala charity event, the death of a parent, the drug-induced car crash and so on. These are portrayed with remorseless insight and sharp prose but never descend into satire. Then there is the added spice of insider trading. Adam indulges in this just because he can, even though he makes much more money through his legitimate activities. His crime hangs over their lives, but when he confesses to Cynthia, she reinforces rather than rebukes him: " You are a man, Adam. You are a man among men. " It is just a shortcut to their destiny.

Dee has a gift for capturing sharp insights into character, as when Cynthia, on discovering that the young Jonas has a liking for the " Nate the Great" books, goes out and buys him all the remaining thirteen editions in one go, oblivious to the concept that it is the acquiring, not the owning which constitutes the joy of collecting.

This is not a morality tale. Dee is neutral regarding the workings of the esoteric financial markets: "Money was its own system, its own language, its own governing principle." The action takes place before the meltdown and there is no come-uppance. Nor is it a voyage of self-discovery. With the partial exception of Jonas, the Moreys have no hinterland, no interests beyond themselves, their workouts and their money. Even their own families, relatively normal people, they hold in contempt. Few readers would choose to swap places with the Moreys, despite their health and their wealth. This, I think, is Dee's point.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 6 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Privileges (Paperback)
Like another reviewer, I read this after reading Frantzen's Freedom. I liked that book but felt this one fell away very badly. From a plot viewpoint the characters got into less likely or unbelievable situations- viz the son - or were not developed -like the daughter. There have been many novels about the rich being different but this was a profound disappointment- little to reflect on except the time wasted reading this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 21 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Privileges (Paperback)
The novel is written beautifully throughout. However, it runs out of steam three quarters of the way through when the early fast and compelling narrative loses energy. Three dramatic episodes occur in the lives of the novel's family members towards the end, as if in an attempt to resuscitate a plot, but they whimper to an unsatisfying close. I'm sorry I bothered to finish reading it, but the writer's ability kept me looking for something that wasn't there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but flawed novel, 10 April 2012
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This review is from: The Privileges (Paperback)
Very good, but a bit aimless and overlong in places.

It gets caught up in repetitive details in two places. After you've read a stack of pages on child rearing, and looking after a dying relative, you feel the book has covered the subjects well enough. It gets into a bit of a rut and keeps going on at it long after it's fresh and interesting. A bit of firmer editing would have been welcome.

There was a lack of an actual end point the novel was aiming for, and so it meanders (enjoyably) to a conclusion. It's an ending, but it's not exactly a solid, well worked out place to end it. Frankly it borders on random. And it did leave me slightly puzzled as to what the specific thematic point the author was trying to get at with this book. Beyond a voyeuristic look at the world of these wealthy WASP characters, I'm not sure what else it really achieves.

It's very well written, and the characters have life and dimensions to them. Although oddly for a male writer the most underwritten and least convincing character was the husband.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How interesting is money?, 16 Feb 2012
By 
Ragnar - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Privileges (Paperback)
The subject of this book is the effect of money, in excess, on those who have it, in this case Adam and Cynthia Morey and their children April and Jason. They have money because Adam works at a hedge fund, where he is second-in-command to the boss, who likes him personally and regards him as his heir apparent.

Not content with the vast sums he `earns' at the hedge fund, Adam starts making larger sums on the side through insider trading. He can only do this safely with the help of others and begins this operation with the help of another risk-taker, Devon, whom he meets at a party. So the Morey family end up with wealth at their disposal as evidenced, for example, by their private jet.

One thing the Moreys have going for them, apart from money, is love. Adam and Cynthia love each other and both are happily faithful. They also love their children, who are very different one from the other. April, the older, seems worldly wise and faces the family wealth head-on. She distrusts Jonas' attempts to be `authentic', whether in his attitude to music or his life with his girl-friend Nikki. In April's opinion, they are slumming it in the apartment they share. Since he could easily afford to live in much better style, how authentic is choosing not to do so? She also fears that Nikki may be a gold-digger, which does not seem likely. She curtails her visit to the happy couple by whistling up the private jet.

But April is not in a position to be critical. She mixes in bad company, takes drugs and has to be bailed out by mum when she gets into trouble. She hasn't the faintest idea what her life is about, so in her case money does not provide direction. She is a wholly pointless person, which is not the case with Adam and Cynthia.

Cynthia hasn't done a day's work in her life but likes spending. Initially she spends on houses, restlessly moving from one to another, better place. Later she becomes a lady -bountiful figure, doling out large sums to worthy causes on behalf of the family foundation. She takes this seriously and puts genuine effort into it.

One side-effect of having so much money is a tendency to be hard-nosed in her dealings with others. This can be as simple as stating her position with brutal clarity, as happens when she discovers that her father, now dying, has been living with a woman called Irene Ball. She is not hostile to Irene, and aware that Irene loves her father and is genuinely upset that he is dying, but she cuts through the pleasantries to agree a figure with Irene which will see her straight after her father dies.

How good is this book? It begins with a lengthy set-piece, Adam and Cynthia's wedding and subsequent reception. I am not the best person to judge this since I can't stand weddings, this one being so grisly I nearly stopped reading on. As the book progresses we meet a few additional and interesting characters, such as Nikki's mentor in the art world, Agnew. Jason starts taking an interest in art which leads him into a potentially dangerous situation with an artist who may or not have been talented but was certainly off his trolley.

There are quite a few statements concerning money and its effect on the individual and society for the reader to chew on, but no critique at all of those who make money out of money as distinct from capitalists pure and simple who fund businesses directly. And there is a feeling that, after the large opening set-piece, the book becomes gradually more episodic before finally petering out in an unsatisfactory manner. As the last of the water disappears into the sand it's too bad if you're still feeling thirsty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Real life character portrayals, 2 Mar 2011
By 
Shazjera (Bournemouth) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Privileges (Paperback)
The lives of the Morey family are the focus in this novel on love and wealth.

The story opens with the marriage of Adam and Cynthia. Neither of them come from a `monied' background, it is Cynthia's stepfather Warren who provides the opulence from his bank balance........... and neither of them had positive role models in their own parents. They are clearly in love. Their children, April and Jonas, are born quite early in the marriage and the stage is set.

Adam is a character who despite coming across as not looking back into the past has an obsession about his health, which is clearly related to the ill health suffered from his father. He begins to lead a charmed life thanks to his employer and when doing what he is told bores him he becomes involved in trading on the side - which also coincides with life not moving fast enough for Cynthia. I felt he was a character who didn't think about how his actions affected others.

Cynthia also does not let the past affect her present. Apart from her love for Adam, this makes her appear shallow. If it wasn't for how she reacted to a crisis with her children when they were younger, I wouldn't have known that she actually loved them. In fact, I found the children's earlier lives misleading as I thought Cynthia was going to be an over-protective mother but in their mid-teens she doesn't even know whether they are in the penthouse or not!

The characters come across to the reader as very believable - even the ones on the periphery whose lives we know little about but can tell from their actions the type of people they are.

The Morey's story is, I think, an accurate portrayal of two people who love each other to the exclusion of anyone else and how that effects all the other close relationships that should have been nurtured but instead are side-lined. It shows us that what some might consider to be a life lived successfully on the outside may be considered by others as scarred and broken on an inner level. JD has the dysfunctional family performing for us at an optimal level with the addition of the rich and `famous' thrown in the mix. You may find yourself feeling uncomfortable at times - perhaps prompting you to look at your own `shadow' side.

It is definitely worth reading if you like to read about the rich and successful. My only disappointment is that I was hoping there would be a different outcome to Adam's underhand trading!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If you liked Freedom..., 14 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Privileges (Kindle Edition)
Reading this almost back to back with Franzen's "Freedom" there was something eerily familiar about the style, tone, dialogue and characterisation. If you liked the Franzen I suspect you'll like this. On the other hand ... I found this just as uninvolving and unbelievable. It at least lacks some of the self-importance of Freedom (and is shorter!). It seems to float in a strangely immoral universe in which actions rarely have consequences. The central insider dealing scam is scantily and unconvincingly described, as are the relations between the characters, the portrayal of which rarely exceeds soap-opera level. Late in the book Adam has a conversation with his rebellious teenage daughter April, who has been into drugs and a "Eurotrash" drug dealer. When April questions the point of Adam's good works in distributing some of his (ill-gotten) wealth, Adam's response is "Your mother and I are trying to make the world a better place", and April just continues the conversation as though something profound has been said. A little later, April to Adam: "I'll never find someone like you and Mom did, though. You two are ridiculous". She doesn't mean this literally, alas.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Technically perfect but unconvincing..., 30 Dec 2013
By 
A. Hallaj "309" (Damascus, Syria) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Privileges (Paperback)
Ordering a book is not an easy matter when you leave in Damascus-Syria. With the turmoil of civil war in the country, I had to buy it online, ship it to Beirut-Lebanon and then move it to the country with a weekly courier that I use (what a trip right!!).
I was drawn to read the novel based on Jonathan Franzen recommendation. The book disappointed me from page 4 or 5. It was obvious that the characters are not convincing, somehow shallow and not carefully created. The plot move in time like spots of light in dark shadows for no clear reason; why early marriage in the first 50 pages that jump to an upper middle class life after 10 years? Nothing happened in the wedding, nothing happened in the second chapter of the novel, and nothing happened in that left away 10 years. It's just picturing life as it is, something you can see within 2-3 minutes of any regular movie before the plot starts.
You can compare raising kids or facing psychological issues with Franzen's Freedom and sees the difference immediately, the relation of Adam with his boss and the relation of Chip with his boss (in the Corrections of Franzen again), the writer seems to approach everything from distance, like a pale shadow of Franzen -and maybe this is why Franzen loved the novel!!- like he doesn't want to get involved deeply with the family so no strong emotions are generated; I think he wanted the novel technically perfect, like building a first generation Lexus. I stopped at page 138...
The novel could be a good read in the hands of a tourist on a distant beach, killing time between waking up and having lunch... there is no substance in it...
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The Privileges
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
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