Jessica Shattuck is the author of The Hazards of Good Breeding (a New York Times Notable Book and a Winship/PEN Award finalist) and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Believer, Wired, Mother Jones, and Glamour, among other publications. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Hazards of Good Breeding: A Novelby Jessica Shattuck
"Reading Jessica Shattuck's pitch perfect first novel is like spying on the children and grandchildren of John Cheever's Wapshots."—Los Angeles TimesThis "richly appointed and generously portrayed" (Kirkus Reviews) debut novel tells the story of a WASPy, old-Boston family coming face to face with an America much larger than the one it/em>/p>/em>
"Reading Jessica Shattuck's pitch perfect first novel is like spying on the children and grandchildren of John Cheever's Wapshots."—Los Angeles TimesThis "richly appointed and generously portrayed" (Kirkus Reviews) debut novel tells the story of a WASPy, old-Boston family coming face to face with an America much larger than the one it was born in. Told from five perspectives, the novel spans an explosive week in the life of the Dunlaps, culminating in a series of events that will change their way of life forever.
Caroline Dunlap has written off the insular world of the Boston deb parties, golf club luaus, and WASP weddings that she grew up with. But when she reluctantly returns home after her college graduation, she finds that not everything is quite as predictable, or protected, as she had imagined. Her father, the eccentric, puritanical Jack Dunlap, is carrying on stoically after the breakup of his marriage, but he can't stop thinking of Rosita, the family housekeeper he fired almost six months ago. Caroline's little brother, Eliot, is working on a giant papier-mâché diorama of their town-or is he hatching a plan of larger proportions?
As the real reason for Rosita's departure is revealed, the novel culminates in a series of events that assault the fragile, sheltered, and arguably obsolete world of the Dunlaps.
Opening a window into a family's repressed desires and fears, The Hazards of Good Breeding is a startlingly perceptive comedy of manners that heralds a new writer of dazzling talent.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Date of Birth:
- April 2, 1972
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- B.A. Harvard College, 1994; M.F.A. in Writing, Columbia University, 2001
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This was a very good book in a long string of good books I have recently read that were set in New England. It's very similar to Nancy Clark's The Hills at Home. Both have a New England family with it's blue-blood life becoming less and less relevant in the present day. And both have the family being documented by a young man who gets a little too close to the subject. The Hills at Home, however, made me feel as if I was in the house with the Hills, where Hazards felt like I was watching a documentary of the family. Plus, where Hazards was occasionally funny, The Hills was often laugh-out-loud funny. The Hazards of Good Breeding was a very good book, very well written, but came too soon after reading The Hills at Home to make me forget that excellent book.
The writing of this book really distracted me from the plot. It felt like the work of someone who's just taken a class in creative writing, and looks for every opening to use any literary elements possible. The amount of similes used in the first 25 pages almost made me stop reading altogether. The dialogue was a bit forced and various situations in the book just didn't seem believable. I didn't like Shattuck's tendency to take the role of the completely omniscient narrator, laying out in the beginning of the book everything about the characters' lives in a 'just-so' manner, and somehow linking that in really trite fashion to their inner personalities ('There is something secretive, but not dishonest, about his demeanor that comes, maybe, because in his lifetime he has already had so much exposure to silence.'). I also thought that the choice of writing the entire book in the present tense made it awkward. However, once I got through the style, I did find myself hooked by the plot and ended up finishing. It seems Shattuck tried to write the 'Great American Novel' her first time out and failed, but ended up with a fairly compelling beach read instead.
if this is the same Jessica Shattuck who used to cover the video game sector? If it is, then one person applauds her grand escape. I am going to buy this book.
Gripping and unpredictable, this book blew me away. Isn't WASP-dom a tired subject? Not in this sharp, funny yet elegaic account of an old world family struggling with modern life. The characters are deeply memorable, their inner lives complex yet all too real. Amazing. The best novel i've read this year.
This is a lovely lyrical and perceptive book, rich with local color and larger significance. It shrewdly updates the comedy of manners and uses the anthropological technique of that genre to canny ends.