Hazards of Good Breeding
  • Hazards of Good Breeding
  • Hazards of Good Breeding

Hazards of Good Breeding

4.0 7
by Jessica Shattuck, Fareed Zakaria

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"Reading Jessica Shattuck's pitch perfect first novel is like spying on the children and grandchildren of John Cheever's Wapshots."—Los Angeles Times
This "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

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"Reading Jessica Shattuck's pitch perfect first novel is like spying on the children and grandchildren of John Cheever's Wapshots."—Los Angeles Times
This "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.

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Editorial Reviews

“Will naturally be compared to Cheever's stories and Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. What's more surprising is that it deserves a place beside those masterpieces.”
New York Times
“In her poised and astute first novel....Shattuck unleashes a skewering gift for social commentary.”
Maureen Howard
“Shattuck's romantic comedy will remind readers of the wit and energy of Cheever's Wapshot Chronicles.”
Roxana Robinson
“[A] thoughtful and elegant first novel, full of insight and humor.”
Jill McCorkle
“[A]ll that the title promises and more. It is a terrific debut by a talented writer.”
Ann Beattie
“An excellent novel about feeling, complex people.....every bit as affecting as Richard Yates' magnificent Revolutionary Road.”
Binnie Kirshenbaum
“[A] sterling novel; a deliciously comic and deeply profound look at an American family, indeed at America itself.”
Helen Shulman
“There are at least 15 certifiable pleasures in every paragraph of this charming, intelligent, and exceedingly well-crafted debut.”
The New York Times
Shattuck's boldest move is her ending, which for a time seems in danger of being harmonious to the point of suspicion. But in the book's final section, told for the first time from Rosita's point of view, Shattuck blows a hole through this bonhomie. It's a risky move, but it's the one that finally elevates The Hazards of Good Breeding from a witty and promising first novel to a disturbing indictment of a superannuated subculture. — Jennifer Egan
Publishers Weekly
Shattuck's debut novel is a social comedy, with flashes of darker import, about an upper-crust Boston suburban family forced to come to terms with the pressures of contemporary life and the ways in which they succeed, or more frequently fail. Patriarch Jack Dunlap is a rigid, seemingly puritanical businessman whose stern eccentricities have driven his wife, Faith, out of the house and into a state of nervous exhaustion. Daughter Caroline, made of sterner stuff, is trying to get used to the family weirdness again after graduating from college and returning home to decide what to do with her life-which will probably not include continuing to see an old beau, pot-smoking Rock. Her little brother, Eliot, is attempting to come to terms with the loss of his beloved Colombian babysitter, Rosita, fired under mysterious circumstances. It is Rosita, a symbol of strength and resilience amid the flaky denizens of her adopted country, who becomes the center around which the anxieties and obsessions of the principals revolve, and she is perhaps too easy a symbol. Shattuck is an observant and graceful writer, and contrives some elegant and touching scenes, particularly as Faith begins to recover a sense of her womanhood with a charming French visitor. But the book, for all its virtues, feels excessively schematic, and various plot strands-like Caroline's involvement with a documentary filmmaker-are dropped too summarily. Blurbs compare it to the work of Richard Yates and John Cheever, but it has neither the somber anguish of the former or the comic, off-center lan of the latter. (Feb.) Forecast: The well-observed New England setting and characters could help this title to do well locally-Shattuck will tour the Northeast-but it's rather quiet to make much of a mark on the national scene. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Shattuck's first novel seems determined to demonstrate why the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ruling class is dying out. The Dunlop family of Concord, MA, and their tony social set are heavy-handedly portrayed as self-absorbed and superficial, showing little benefit from their Harvard educations. Father Jack dabbles with a company involved in ruthless acquisitions and has divorced Faith, who suffered a mental breakdown and moved to New York. Daughter Caroline, a recent Harvard graduate, has moved back home with no prospect of a job; her Zonker-like friend, Rock, has the run of the house. Meanwhile, Eliot, the youngest, bears the brunt of these empty lives, especially after his beloved Colombian babysitter, Rosita, is summarily fired. (We soon learn, along with family members, that Jack had a brief affair with her.) Shattuck tries to take us inside the heads of several characters, but the novel's overall condemning tone dominates. Shattuck would have done better to focus on crafting the story instead of making a comment on WASP irresponsibility. A marginal purchase.-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A loopy, tightly wound WASP family in Concord, Massachusetts, unravels with the introduction of alien elements in a generously portrayed and richly appointed debut. Harvard graduate Caroline Dunlap has returned to her austere 19th-century family home in Paul Revere country to spend the summer planning what to do with her young and privileged life after the alarming breakup of her parents' 22-year marriage. Her stiff-upper-lip father, Jack, a wealthy entrepreneur in a textbook business, deals with his wife Faith's departure (and nervous breakdown) stoically, as is the custom of his emotionally frigid Yankee ancestors. Yet with a glimpse of the pregnant state of his former Colombian housekeeper, Rosita, whom he unceremoniously dismissed six months before despite the true affection she and his ten-year-old son Eliot share, Jack grows uncharacteristically troubled and self-questioning. In alternating third-person points of view, the reader is treated to a thorough, albeit forgiving, examination of the collapsing Dunlap state of affairs and of the rickety old-money network-an examination aided by Caroline's nosy, well-meaning, pot-addled schoolmate Rock Coughlin and an oily turncoat filmmaker who wants to get the story of The Last WASPS-from Puritans to Preppies on film. Shattuck, wisely, unearths the inherent comedy is these stilted, in-bred characters who can indeed laugh at themselves and remain sympathetic. Caroline's mother Faith-a nervous, pretty, and sheltered divorc�e-spends the novel at a girlhood friend's home on Pea Island, afraid of facing her young, unsupervised son, and in the company of a terrifying Frenchman who encourages her to go skinny-dipping. "I'm used to not knowingwhat's going on," she concludes when Jack's scandalous situation with the former housekeeper is gradually revealed. Caroline, infatuated by the filmmaker, subscribes to a similar philosophy of safety in incuriosity-until young Eliot's need for love and attention drives everybody out of their collective, maddening self-absorption. Shattuck has done wonders bringing to luminous life her patriotic diorama.

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

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