A Season in Purgatory

A Season in Purgatory

4.8 20
by Dominick Dunne
     
 

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Dominick Dunne turns the secrets of power and privilege into his most shocking and important novel. In A Season in Purgatory, Dunne explores a wealthy Catholic family, a sinister murder of an innocent girl, and its twenty-year cover-up. When Harrison Burns first meets the family of his boarding school chum Constant Bradley, he is awed by their wealth and generosity.… See more details below

Overview

Dominick Dunne turns the secrets of power and privilege into his most shocking and important novel. In A Season in Purgatory, Dunne explores a wealthy Catholic family, a sinister murder of an innocent girl, and its twenty-year cover-up. When Harrison Burns first meets the family of his boarding school chum Constant Bradley, he is awed by their wealth and generosity. But the Bradleys are a family of strong social aspirations and unrelenting political ambition, and Harrison soon learns that friendship with the Bradleys has its price. As Harrison Burns strips away the facade of wealth and acquisition, he brings the reader face to face with the inner structure of a large family at odds with the religion that is at its core, and the terrible secret that is his purgatory to bear.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dunne's juicy tale of an aristocratic family's secret complicity in a grisly murder was a four-week PW bestseller. (July)
School Library Journal
YA-The Bradleys are a large, rich, powerful, Irish-Catholic family, headed by a ruthless patriarch who is bent on having his favorite son, Constant, become president. Mrs. Bradley is a religious, designer-clad mother who shuts her eyes to her husband's numerous affairs. Harrison Burns is Constant's poor but bright friend. They attend the same exclusive prep school. One night, Constant beats a young girl to death, and Harrison helps him cover it up. Twenty-two years later, he can't bear the guilt of his complicity in the crime and decides to confess. Can he bring the Bradley dynasty down with him? Dunne, who has previously paralleled real life in The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (Crown, 1985), has written a real page-turner that looks into the lives of a wealthy, morally corrupt American family. It's almost like reading People magazine.-Diana C. Hirsch, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, MD
Brad Hooper
A decently effective melodrama relying on a plot device quite similar to the classic British novel by Evelyn Waugh, "Brideshead Revisited" (1936). Harrison Burns is a scholarship student at a New England prep school for privileged boys from rich Catholic families. He becomes buddies with Constant Bradley and finds himself falling in with Constant's family; his attraction to Constant, his self-negation in the face of Constant's more overwhelming personality, eventually spells tragedy as Constant embroils Harrison in a deadly situation. Years later, after Harrison has had an intimate relationship with Constant's sister, he must finally come clean of the secret he's held for too long. Dunne's a popular writer, and this one has compelling moments.
Kirkus Reviews
It's Kennedy-bashing time again, as rich-and-venal chronicler Dunne (An Inconvenient Woman, etc.) drags writer-hero Harrison Burns through 20 years of guilt for having helped our most prominent Irish Catholic family cover up a sex murder by its fair-haired scion. After a brief peek ahead—naughty talk, dirty pictures, and several murders are all mentioned in the first four pages—it's 1972, and Harrison is mysteriously infatuated with prep-school chum Constant Bradley, a plausible cipher who can get aroused only when he's beating up his dates. When Constant's unwanted attentions to Winifred Utley leave her dead on the family estate, Harrison reluctantly helps cover up his guilt, allowing himself to be bought off ("My soul was lost, but my future was bought and paid for") by Constant's wealthy, ruthless father Gerald (no slouch at covering up his own sex crimes) with the connivance of Constant's slimy, crippled brother Jerry. (Hovering piously on the fringes: Constant's impossibly devout mother Grace, his successful brothers Desmond and Sandro, and his sisters Maureen and Mary Pat, who never mention their retarded, institutionalized sister Agnes.) Then it's 1989, and Harrison, visiting a Maine nursing home to cover one of his true-crime expos‚s, runs into Constant's sister Kitt, visiting crazy Agnes, immediately starts a torrid affair with Kitt, and allows himself to be lured back into the Bradley orbit by the offer to ghostwrite a saccharine family bio to launch Constant's gubernatorial bid. When old man Bradley, trying to take uncooperative Harrison out of the picture for good, overreaches himself, Harrison decides to unload his secret and go after Constant. So in 1993,Harrison looks back over the long-delayed trial—and its inevitable outcome. Dunne may see himself as another F. Scott Fitzgerald, chronicling the moral corruption of the well-to-do (references to Gatsby passim). But the main pleasures here involve nothing more moving than watching a wily old pro set up characters with as much individuality as ninepins preparatory to bowling them down. (Literary Guild Selection for Summer)

From the Publisher
"Highly entertaining."—Entertainment Weekly
 
"Mesmerizing."—New York Times

"Stunning."—Liz Smith
 
"Compelling."—New York Daily News
 
"Potent characterization and deftly crafted plotting."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780517157107
Publisher:
Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/13/1993

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