In the unforgiving class system of the 1950s, Lucy de Bourgh, daughter of one of Rhode Island's first families and beneficiary of an ample trust fund, was married to Thomas Snow, son of a Newport garage owner and his bookkeeper wife. It hardly mattered that Thomas was a graduate of Harvard Business School, or that he went to work for a great Wall Street firm and succeeded beyond expectations. In Lucy's eyes, he remained irremediably a "townie."
Decades later, a chance meeting brings Lucy together with Philip, our narrator. They'd known each other earlier, and he remembers her as a ravishing, funny, ready-for-anything hellion with a well-earned reputation for generosity with sexual favors. He also remembers Thomas, killed in a freak accident years after his and Lucy's divorce, and is shocked to hear Lucy refer to Thomas insistently as "that monster."
How is he to reconcile that unexpected and overflowing reservoir of bitterness and resentments with his own memories? Almost against his will, Philip sets out on a quest that soon becomes an obsession to discover who exactly these friends were whom he had understood so incompletely, and what happened in their marriage.
Through Philip's patient probing, a brilliant portrait emerges of Begley's heroine: infinitely complex, irresistible as well as insufferable, capable of extremes of arrogance and submission, and driven by sexual appetites she cannot control. Lucy de Bourgh is without doubt one of Begley's strongest and most outrageous creations.
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"Starred Review. In this compact, voyeuristic novel, Begley creates his latest larger-than-life character in the beguiling but sharp-tongued socialite Lucy De Bourgh ... Begley's effortless storytelling will have readers...fascinated by Lucy and Phillips's complex, tangled relationship." - Publishers Weekly
"For ardent Fitzgeraldian Auchinclossians: take with caviar, Veuve Clicquot, a fine cigar, and white gloves for the ladies, please." - Library Journal
" Less interesting as a novel than as insight into the mind ofa novelist." - Kirkus
"This delicious, dazzling novel about the rise and fall of a great American debutante kept me up all night. Begley knows everything about the secret lives of the American aristocracy, and he tells all." - Susan Cheever
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Louis Begley's previous novels are Schmidt Steps Back, Matters of Honor, Shipwreck, Schmidt Delivered, Mistler's Exit, About Schmidt, As Max Saw It, The Man Who Was Late, and Wartime Lies, which won the Hemingway/PEN award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work has been translated into eighteen languages.
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