A witty and sophisticated tragicomedy of errors that echoes the melancholic delight of The Great Gatsby.
Protected by the careless elegance of old-money wealth, a small group of Manhattan friends attempt to preserve the irresponsible ease and glory of their prep-school days. George, the likable, sincere, if slightly plodding narrator, recalls the not so distant past, when each of the five was trying for a profitable career or marriage. Chat, George's friend at Dartmouth, is prissy and complaining in that endearing, hard-drinking Noel Coward kind of way. Aside from shared history and jokes, it is their mutual admiration of Kate Goodenow that holds them together. Patrician and flippant, Kate is the very definition of good breeding and the universal object of desire. Into the cozy trio stumbles Harry Lombardi, who lacks what is prized most—good manners and a good name—and possesses in great abundance what is ubiquitously scorned: ambition. A computer whiz from Jersey, he quit Dartmouth after a year to pursue high finance. Although a legend on Wall Street, he is nonetheless ridiculed by the clique for his jittery enthusiasm and bumbling etiquette. And he won't quit harping on his new financial venture—some kind of World Wide Web that will change the world. To the horror of George and Chat, Harry in his naive impertinence aims for Kate, and they are soon engaged. Sweeping back and forth from their prep-school days to the forced, aimless pursuit of pleasure that occupies their present, the narrative effortlessly builds a collection of scenes that serve to perfectly reveal the ragged edges beneath the characters’ glossy veneers. More an exposé than a plot-driven work, the tangled fates of Harry, Kate, George, and Chat are thrown for a loop when a couple of very real ghosts from the past threaten to ruin their fun.
A winning debut: traditional in all aspects and remarkably adept.