In Vatner’s witty debut, Penelope “Pepper” Bradford is, at 32, something of a late bloomer among Manhattan’s elite. She’s unmarried, works at a series of unsatisfying entry-level jobs, and is embarrassed when her married younger sister becomes pregnant before she does. Things change when she meets Rick Hunter, a young banker, and they become quickly engaged. Rick moves them into the Chelmsford Arms, a co-op apartment building for the old and wealthy in Carnegie Hill, the “epicenter of Upper East Side privilege.” On impulse, Pepper decides to join the co-op board and immediately finds herself at odds with its tyrannical president, Patricia Cooper. On the eve of their wedding, Pepper finds out that Rick might be cheating on her, but she still goes ahead with the ceremony. As she tries to repair her marriage, run for co-op board president, and make friends with several of the building’s tenants (who all have problems of their own), Pepper finally takes her first steps toward becoming a true adult. Vatner’s keen eye for domestic dissatisfaction will remind readers of Laurie Colwin. He populates the Chelmsford Arms with a delightful cast of characters, but best of all is Pepper herself, a charming, contemporary update of an Edith Wharton character. This debut will entertain and satisfy readers. (Aug.)
"[An] effervescent debut...entertaining and profound." —People
"Absolutely charming and heartfelt." —New York Post
"A perfect beach read." –Town & Country Magazine
"Sitting in the sun in between travel days with a glass of lemonade (or maybe a martini) with this book is an excellent escape." –She Reads
"Vatner's debut novel is absorbing and comforting in its omniscient perspective and delicate handling of its carousel of characters." –Kirkus
"Vatner brings to light how the other half lives, and, contrary to popular belief, how money does not buy happiness but can certainly give that impression...An excellent read for those seeking an exploration of marriage in all of its various stages." –Library Journal
"Vatner’s keen eye for domestic dissatisfaction will remind readers of Laurie Colwin. He populates the Chelmsford Arms with a delightful cast of characters, but best of all is Pepper herself, a charming, contemporary update of an Edith Wharton character. This debut will entertain and satisfy readers." –Publishers Weekly
“[A] charming, comically observant debut… it’s [Vatner’s] consistently wry wit and obvious affection for his deluded, struggling characters that are this novel's propelling forces, and which will win readers over with delight.” –Booklist Starred Review
"The Chelmsford Arms, the apartment building at the center of Jonathan Vatner’s debut novel, is a bubble within a bubble, a Galapagos of the rich, full of beautifully bizarre mutations that exist nowhere else. A shrewd comic tale of old lovers, young lovers, and the blanket of privilege that both warms and binds them all. A marvelous book.” –Jonathan Dee, Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Privileges
“Wit and high hilarity propel us through the pages of this tale of irrepressible lovers who are never on secure ground for long. There’s wisdom at the heart of this wonderfully buoyant novel.”
–Kathleen Hill, author of New York Times Notable Book Still Waters in Niger
"In Carnegie Hill, Jonathan Vatner's array of terrifically drawn residents of a New York City co-op tackles race, homophobia, income disparity, and romance old and new. Readers of Cynthia Ozick and Amor Towles will love this witty and heartrenching chronicle of modern manners. Through Vatner’s sharp evocation of present-day Manhattan, we pity the rich, admire the struggling, and root for them all." –Bethany Ball, New York Times Editor's Choice author of What to Do About the Solomons
"A shrewd confection of a novel, fun to read and warm at heart—full of neighborly sideswiping, unfeedable appetites, and an overview that sees the pride and fragility of it all. The vibrant cast makes this a page-turner—you won’t envy these people for a second but you’ll have a great time watching them undo and fix themselves." –Joan Silber, 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award winner and the PEN/Faulkner Award winner for Improvement
"A richly imagined story, teeming with life, and a subtle exploration of the ways in which we grow or fail to grow. Jonathan Vatner has given us a wise and funny novel with a compassionate heart." –Brian Morton, author of New York Times Notable Book Starting Out in the Evening
"Carnegie Hill is that rare thing: A deft, delightful comedy of manners that also gets at dark, complicated truths about race, class, gender, and age. I loved it." –Joanna Rakoff, award-winning international bestselling author of My Salinger Year
"Carnegie Hill is pure reading pleasure. Like a warm-hearted Tom Wolfe, Vatner portrays the foibles of the upper crust with affection and panache—and gets all the details outrageously right. He imbues the elite residents of the Chelmsford Arms with the breath of life, and by the end we know them as family. He's a wise, wry writer, and this is an uplifting, irresistible debut." –Lauren Acampora, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers author of The Paper Wasp
The secret lives of the board members and service staff of a stuffy old apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan are full of drama.
Upon moving into the Chelmsford Arms with her rich, handsome, but oddly irritating asset manager fiance, Penelope "Pepper" Bradford takes a position on the building's board in hopes of meeting people and developing job prospects better than answering phones in her mother's friend's third-tier art gallery. She is the youngest person by far on the board, a coterie of moth-eaten old farts ruled by the ancient Patricia Cooper—"Empress Pat. The Czarina. The Duchess of Carnegie Hill"—and her crazed Pomeranian, with assistance from an elderly housekeeper who is the only African American in the building save the young gay porter, Caleb. The board's main function seems to be to preserve the all-white, no-children makeup of the building, to ensure that none but a short list of overpriced, incompetent contractors ever crosses the threshold, and to prevent tap-dancing, parakeets, and other violations of decency. Despite her early doubts, Pepper becomes close with several of her neighbors. Francis (a philosophical and literary Jewish man) and his wife, Carol, have hit a rough spot in their marriage of 50 years, as have George and Birdie (retired boss and secretary from Montreal), and serious health and mental health issues are cropping up everywhere. As Pepper prepares for her wedding to Rick—and then recovers from it—she can find little inspiration for her long-term marital prospects. The only happy couple in the building is made up of two men, the porter and the doorman, and they are so deep in the closet that nobody knows it. By the end of the book it's time for another board election; Patricia's reign of "corruption and thievery" may be over at last. She appears "holding her sleeping Pomeranian like a muff," wearing "a long red douppioni-silk coat embroidered with dragons"—ready to do battle. Will the Chelmsford Arms and its residents move at last into the 21st century? Vatner's debut novel is absorbing and comforting in its omniscient perspective and delicate handling of its carousel of characters.
A good old-fashioned read on the venerable theme of marriage.
DEBUT Penelope "Pepper" Bradford and Rick are newlyweds, despite her parents' objections. They insisted that thirtysomething Pepper get to know Rick better, basing their concern on her past relationships and their hunch that he was dishonest. But the wedding went ahead, and Pepper now resides in the beautiful Chelmsford Arms building in New York's wealthy Carnegie Hill neighborhood. Her neighbors include two long-married couples, George and Birdie, and Francis and Carol. Pepper looks to them for guidance, not realizing they have their own marital problems. Meanwhile, Caleb and Sergei, who work at the building as a porter and a doorman, conduct a secret romance. Debut author Vatner brings to light how the other half lives, and, contrary to popular belief, how money does not buy happiness but can certainly give that impression. He highlights marriages in varying states of disarray owing to depression, health issues leading to alienation, and dishonesty. The story is anything but light, as issues of race, class, sexual preference, secrecy, and prejudice are attacked head on. VERDICT An excellent read for those seeking an exploration of marriage in all of its various stages.—Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN