JONATHAN DEE's excellent fifth novel explores the varied ways in which great privilege expresses itself—and to Dee's endless credit, it does so while avoiding the twin pitfalls of judgment and romanticism, presenting instead an astute study of the kind of problems most of us only dream of having.
Cynthia and Adam are a couple who marry at 22, having conceived an almost unrealistically durable passion for one another. Their wedding opens the novel, setting the couple against the backdrop of the people in their lives: their beautiful young friends, masquerading as grownups; their awkward and broken families. From this panoramic starting point, the lives of Cynthia and Adam winnow down to a series of Upper East Side apartments, some insider trading, and the consolidation of their mind-boggling fortune—eventually capped off with a meth-binging daughter and a son who aches to slough off the trappings of his caste.
In this Petri dish of privilege, Dee examines the family from every angle. Cynthia and Adam are likeable and despicable in equal measure; their children, fascinating social experiments. It's as though Tom Wolfe's Masters of the Universe took a consciousness-raising class—they're a little more enlightened, but still fundamentally banking on the assumption that wealth and privilege beget wealth and privilege. It's no surprise that lives of the super rich are voyeuristically compelling; Dee's innovation is in making them complex.