Wealth & Privilege
“Money. Family. Love. Hate. Obsession. Duty. Politics. Religion – or the lack thereof. Sex — or, once again, the lack thereof. Thomas Baldwin finds himself married to a woman he can’t stand, while head-over heels in love with another woman he can’t have. Talk about bad planning.”
Gilded Age Pittsburgh is the setting for Jeanette Watts’s lavishly atmospheric debut novel Wealth & Privilege, which turns on the schemes and counter-schemes various family members and interested strangers have in getting comfortably-situated and affable young Thomas Baldwin married off.
One such scheme results in his being married to a woman he quickly comes to detest, while another inadvertently brings him into close contact with a woman he quickly comes to love, despite the fact that she seems permanently beyond his reach.
Watts does a superbly smooth and confident job of keeping her plot-lines flowing along at an enticing clip, and although her period research is obviously extensive, she incorporates it so adeptly that the novel’s large amounts of exposition – on contemporary events like the assassination of President Garfield, or the Johnstown Flood – always feel like organic parts of the story.
The result is an involving and subtly funny work worth reading