31 Jan 2012

Review: "The Privileges" by Jonathan Dee

We've all been there I guess - fallen head over heels in lust with a book title, the cover art or a book image. I do it all the time, actually I think I am pretty bad when it comes to this. I will obsess about some little detail to the extent where I expect such impossible things from a book that it can't fail to fail.

Conscious of this, I was worried that I had put "The Privileges" by Jonathan Dee on a pedestal, setting it up for a fall and so when I turned the last page, I was quite surprised that it had lived up to my (great) expectations! 

The title itself is what did it for me in the beginning. It sounds like a high-end, intellectual version of the Manhattan from "Gossip Girl" and the cover is stunning in both its detail and simplicity. The golden and white colors drew me in. 

The story starts on a hot day in Pittsburgh where Adam and Cynthia are taking the plunge and getting married as the first couple in their circle of friends. They are only 22 years old and a golden couple with all of their lives and all life's possibilities ahead of them. The wedding itself takes up the first chapter and it is worth reading the book just for this one chapter. They are in love in a soulmate-meant-to-be way and though they both have messy families, they are so sure of each other and of their love. Fast-forward a few years and they are now living in New York. Cynthia is a stay-at-home mum almost succumbing to the mind-numbingness of being in her mid-twenties and stuck at home with two kids, April and Jonas. Adam is working his way up in finance - he is not the brightest or cleverest of men but his love for Cynthia and for their family fuels his fire to become a success. 
Cynthia is so closes to drowning in the domesticity that has taken over her life while her girlfriends are having careers and stilettos and martinis that it seems to waken some sleeping dragon in Adam who cooks up a scheme to give her the life style of her dreams. 

As you read one, their story unfolds. With each page they become richer and richer, going from a humble apartment to a life of privates schools, private clubs, even private jets. But even with this lifestyle comes pitfalls and worries that all the money in the world is no solution for. In sickness and in health, Adam and Cynthia and their love are the center in this tale of morals, values and ethics. The family is the foundation upon which they build their lives. 

I got so caught up in this story, especially in April and Jonas. I would have loved for Dee to follow them further, explore how and when these children become adults and what shapes their lives. Following the story of Cynthia and Adam as they obtain what most people can only dream of, yet live for the love that we are all searching for, was a real treat. A clever, beautiful gem of a book. 

Read it if: You like your books clever and well-written. If you like beautiful sentences. If you are not the type to become envious of immense wealth and true love. 


  1. This sounds so fascinating. I haven't heard of it before, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  2. Col, you're welcome. I stumbled over it by chance and really enjoyed it.