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.
“A witty and promising first novel…[Shattuck’s] descriptive brio can leave the reader punchy with surprise and admiration.”
“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.”
“Shattuck is a wonderful writer. Her domestic interiors and etched portraits of ‘Bostonus erectus’ evoke the surface of Vermeer, the gentle bite of Austen … A gracefully choreographed novel that shines a sharp, clear light on a dying world and brings it to vivid life.”
“A loopy, tightly wound WASP family in Concord, Massachusetts, unravels with the introduction of alien elements in a generously portrayed and richly appointed debut … Shattuck has done wonders bringing to luminous life her patriotic diorama.”
“The Hazards of Good Breeding showcases Shattuck’s sophisticated eye and her talent for turning arch observation into words.”
[A] stunning debut novel, Cambridge native Shattuck renders the sad, comic decline of the Dunlap family, mirroring the demise of the Boston Brahmins themselves.”
“Quiet … funny and moving.”
[With a] keen understanding of human nature and frailty [Shattuck] often displays a magnetic use of detail that not only makes her scenes come visually alive but also illuminates character.”
“Shattuck’s prose is graceful and unforced, full of unexpected and casually tossed insights, and, like Lorrie Moore, her humor acts both as scourge and salve, to skewer and to deflect.”
[The Hazards of Good Breeding] is at once a funny send-up of blue bloods in debauched decline and a profoundly compassionate contemplation of the burdens of inheritance.”
“An excellent novel … The author avoids contrivance in presenting sensitive issues experienced by totally credible, thoughtful people and comes up with a new understanding of American life every bit as affecting as Richard Yates’s magnificent Revolutionary Road.”
“Ms. Shattuck is a meticulous, probing story-teller, not unlike Richard Russo or John Irving…an impressive achievement”
“The Hazards of Good Breeding is a stunning first novel … In this midsummer night’s dream of a story, her themes of social disintegration and search for responsibility are playfully worked to reveal an endgame of moving redemption.”
“It is Shattuck’s ongoing rich description of each character’s very different inner world, combined with her ability to take a sharp, amused, detached view of their attitudes and foibles that makes Hazards so pleasing.”
“Jessica Shattuck has written a thoughtful and elegant first novel, full of insight and humor. It is set in a rarefied world, one that she knows intimately and reveals perceptively; one which, for all its flaws and eccentricities, she loves.”
“The Hazards of Good Breeding heralds a talented new writer’s voice that is at once observant, funny, and graceful.”
“With her sharp eye for detail and witty, winning prose, Jessica Shattuck takes the familiar story of a high-WASP family’s demise and turns it on its head. There are at least fifteen certifiable pleasures in every paragraph of this charming, intelligent, exceedingly well-crafted debut”
“With great skill and wisdom Jessica Shattuck weaves an intricate domestic web that highlights the most vulnerable threads in a myriad of relationships: parents, children, friends, and lovers. The Hazards of Good Breeding is all that the title promises and more. It is a terrific debut by a talented writer.”