The Hazards of Good Breeding

The Hazards of Good Breeding

by Jessica Shattuck

Overview: 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.

Faith Bowers (05/25/17): This is a well written compact novel. Usually I do not like novels that leave out information but Ms. Shattuck informs you of a character’s history in just a few lines. Even though it is a mere 288 pages, it has a much longer history.

Jack Dunlop, the father of four children was raised by an unfeeling self absorbed aunt, therefore has no compassion to share and does not know how to love. He is controlling and abusive to his wife of 24 years and as soon as her children are almost raised, she finds herself sick and gets the divorce but loses her youngest. I am not the best of writers but what I just shared was done in just a few sentences with a much bigger impact. Elliot the youngest ends up with Jack who delegates the parenting to their housekeeper and then fires her. The housekeeper becomes an important character but is not present through most of the novel.

The comparison of dog breeding and WASP families are part of the wry humor of this novel. This is Ms. Shattuck’s first novel. The “Women in the Castle” is her current novel. That is on my wait list at the library and I hope that her writing gets even better.
Rating: ***

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