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Matters of Honor

A Novel

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Paperback published by Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)

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About This Book
“Terrifically intelligent, moving, and entertaining.”
–The New York Sun


“With snappy dialogue [and] intelligent prose . . . Begley paints a memorable portrait of lasting friendship and of the strength required to step outside of the expectations that surround each of us.”
–Rocky Mountain News

At the beginning of the 1950s, three disparate young men are thrown together as roommates at Harvard College: Henry White, a Polish-Jewish refugee who survived World War II by hiding in Poland; Archibald P. Palmer III, an Army brat; and Sam Standish, ostensibly the scion of a fine New England family who has just learned that he was adopted at birth by parents he cannot respect. Each seeks to come to terms with his identity or to remake it altogether. Henry’s task is especially daunting: He is determined to live as an American, free of the shackles of his hideous past. But reinvention is a bargain with the devil, and over the years each will find that it comes at a high cost, challenging one’s honor and loyalty to parents, friends, and ultimately oneself.

“Absorbing . . . In full Henry James mode, Begley uses a lucid prose style to dispassionately eviscerate the upper classes even as he illuminates the true meaning of friendship.”
–Booklist

“The final moral crisis of Henry’s life [is] gorgeously evoked. . . . Begley’s analysis of class and anti-Semitism in America is often brilliant.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“A moving tale . . . [Begley’s] technique demands attention–and richly rewards it.”
–The New York Observer

“An elegant novel of enduring friendship.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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“Terrifically intelligent, moving, and entertaining.”
–The New York Sun


“With snappy dialogue [and] intelligent prose . . . Begley paints a memorable portrait of lasting friendship and of the strength required to step outside of the expectations that surround each of us.”
–Rocky Mountain News

At the beginning of the 1950s, three disparate young men are thrown together as roommates at Harvard College: Henry White, a Polish-Jewish refugee who survived World War II by hiding in Poland; Archibald P. Palmer III, an Army brat; and Sam Standish, ostensibly the scion of a fine New England family who has just learned that he was adopted at birth by parents he cannot respect. Each seeks to come to terms with his identity or to remake it altogether. Henry’s task is especially daunting: He is determined to live as an American, free of the shackles of his hideous past. But reinvention is a bargain with the devil, and over the years each will find that it comes at a high cost, challenging one’s honor and loyalty to parents, friends, and ultimately oneself.

“Absorbing . . . In full Henry James mode, Begley uses a lucid prose style to dispassionately eviscerate the upper classes even as he illuminates the true meaning of friendship.”
–Booklist

“The final moral crisis of Henry’s life [is] gorgeously evoked. . . . Begley’s analysis of class and anti-Semitism in America is often brilliant.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“A moving tale . . . [Begley’s] technique demands attention–and richly rewards it.”
–The New York Observer

“An elegant novel of enduring friendship.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Product Details
Paperback (336 pages)
Published: January 29, 2008
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 9780345494344
Other books byLouis Begley
  • Memories of a Marriage

    Memories of a Marriage
    A Novel
    From the author of Wartime Lies and About Schmidt, an irresistibly entertaining novel about a man struggling to understand his friends' seemingly charmed marriage, which may have been doomed from the start. 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.

    Venice for Lovers

    Venice for Lovers
    Venice for Lovers is a memorable collaboration by two fine stylists who have fashioned their own personal homages to Venice, one with a novella, the other with a personal essay. Every year for all the thirty they have been married, Begley and Muhlstein have escaped to Venice to write. In her contribution to the book, Muhlstein charmingly describes how she and her husband dine at the same restaurant every night for years on end, and how becoming friends with restaurateurs has been an unsurpassed means of getting to know the city and its inhabitants, far from the tourists in San Marco Square. In his short novella, Begley writes a story of falling in love with—and in—Venice. His twenty-year-old protagonist, enamored with an older, far worldlier woman of twenty-seven, is lured by her to the City of Water, only to be unceremoniously dumped and left to fend for himself after a brief rendezvous. But he discovers a lasting love for Venice itself—not an uncommon romance, as Begley’s brilliant literary essay on the city’s place within world literature demonstrates: Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Thomas Mann were all illustrious predecessors.

    Wartime Lies

    Wartime Lies
    A Novel
    "Extraordinary...Rich in irony and regret...[the] people and settings are vividly realized and his prose [is] compelling in its simplicity." THE WALL STREET JOURNAL As the world slips into the throes of war in 1939, young Maciek's once closetted existence outside Warsaw is no more. When Warsaw falls, Maciek escapes with his aunt Tania. Together they endure the war, running, hiding, changing their names, forging documents to secure their temporary lives—as the insistent drum of the Nazi march moves ever closer to them and to their secret wartime lies. From the Paperback edition.

    About Schmidt

    About Schmidt
    "A fine new novel... The great pleasure of reading Louis Begley [is] his exceptional literary intelligence." The New York Times Book Review "Begley again demonstrates that he can reveal the complexities of society and personality with a clear eye and graceful style... Morethan meets the requirements of graceful fiction." Time Proud, traditional, and impeccably organized, Albert Schmidt is a button-down lawyer of the old school.  But now, after years of carefulmanagement, his life is slowly unraveling.  His beloved wife has recently died.  He stumbles--or is he being pushed?--into earlyretirement.  And his daughter, his only child, is planning to marry a man Schmidt cannot approve of, for reasons he can scarcely admit, even to himself.  As Schmidt gropes for resolutions, he finds unexpected hope in an intense passion that comes out of the blue. Set in the Hamptons and Manhattan, infused with black humor and startling eroticism, About Schmidt is both a meditation on lonelinessand on the power of romance to unlock the most impenetrable recesses of the heart. "Comical, tough, unsparing; it is as if Louis Auchincloss had exchanged the kid gloves for brass knuckles... Interesting and nervy." The Washington Post Book World "A powerful story of a man's fall from grace... The Remains of the Day come[s] to mind." Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Stunning." Los Angeles Times Book Review

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