Wednesday, February 22, 2012

THE PRIVILEGES by Jonathan Dee

The book opens with the wedding of Adam and Cynthia Morey, two beautiful people whom we get to know only superficially by the end of the novel.  Adam's social gifts make him the darling of his private equity firm, but he wants more and launches a separate endeavor that thrives on insider trading.  This story could have dissolved into an ethical lecture if the SEC had caught up with Adam's dealings, but that is not what happens.  Instead, he quits while he's ahead, and Cynthia heads up a foundation to give away their millions of ill-gotten gains.  This outcome just seems incredibly unlikely to me, as Adam does not come off as the Robin Hood type.  Perhaps the author intends for us to get to know these people via their actions rather than their thoughts and feelings.  In any case, their two children, April, a bona fide mean girl, and Jonas, who develops an interest in offbeat art, are more transparent, as they grow up navigating the world of the insanely rich.  Each has a terrifying experience as a result of incredibly bad judgment, and their reactions to these incidents are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Are Cynthia and Adam bad parents?  No, in fact they treat April's screw-up as a wake-up call and very calmly ship her off with Adam to China on a business trip.  There she will see poverty in the extreme and perhaps gain some perspective.  After all, when your view of the world is as warped as April's and Jonas's, you can't expect normalcy.  In today's world, "normal" may be a moving target, but certainly this family is an outlier.

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