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A Different Definition of Success
victoria hollo 11 contributing writer
May 27, 2010

The Privileges, the latest novel by Jonathan Dee, tells the story of a young, “charmed couple” living in New York City whose ferocious pursuit of wealth and power ultimately alienates the family from society.

Dee, author of four previous novels, most recently Palladio, is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. The Privileges has been praised as “verbally brilliant, intellectually astute, and intricately knowing” as well as “a great, great pleasure to read.”

The novel progresses along the path of Adam and Cynthia Morey’s financial ascendancy, describing the couple and their children in a witty and un-clichéd manner.

Adam excels in a private equity business, but his impatience and lust for material gain ultimately override any content with his achievements. Dee surprisingly sympathizes with his characters and endows them with a sense of nobility.

Unfortunately, with their growing wealthy, Adam and Cynthia cut themselve off from their parents. They are a couple severed from its origins, part of a new generation quite unlike its predecessor.

With elegant, winding sentences, Dee tackles the topic of money and class with a concise sophistication.

Underneath the story lies a question of values. It suggests family is essential to society, and that we abandon it at our peril. The novel also suggests that a world won by risk through amoral actions will inevitably collapse.

Captivating and intelligently written, The Privileges is an enjoyable novel focusing on the culturally topical in an often funny tale. Ambition is as central to the story as it is in Deerfield culture. The story exemplifies the importance of morality, while stressing that success must not be confused with material gain.