"Sophie McManus’s stunning debut novel The Unfortunates revisits American money – the same Old Money (New York, industrial, turn of the twentieth century) that in the fiction of Wharton and James was still new money – and brilliantly reconfigures the tradition of fiction about the very rich, where hereditary entitlement meets the way we live now: hedge funds and clinical trials, shady real estate developers, pet foundations, the special legal and medical arrangements that lavish donation may buy.
What is truly rich about this first novel, beyond the over privileged social class in question, is the brilliant language – lucid, quick, accessible, and yet almost cubist in its syntactical swerves and surprising word choices – with which Sophie McManus invests the inner lives of the Somners, three unforgettable and finally poignant protagonists: the charming, deluded and manically incompetent would-be opera librettist George Somner; his beautiful, kind, naïve wife Iris; and his iron-willed, outrageously controlling mother CeCe."
— Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule
“Is there anything Sophie McManus can’t do? Whether it’s New York high society or the Amazonian rubber industry or the stubborn indignities of old age, McManus writes with brio and with humor and with immense sympathy. The virtuosity in these pages is astonishing, but just as astonishing is this novel’s abiding heart.”
— Joshua Henkin, The World Without You
“In finely etched detail as sharp as shards of glass, McManus reveals in The Unfortunates the corrupting power of wealth and the myriad ways it infects individual lives, and families. As relevant as it is compulsively readable, this wonderfully composed triptych of Somners—Cecilia Somner, the aging matriarch; her troubled son, George, and his outsider wife, Iris—function as the heart of this novel about the potential monstrousness of privilege, and the responsibility of facing one’s legacy.”
— Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist
"Sophie McManus has a shrewd eye for telling gestures and an ear for cruel speech and kindness. She is an incisive, surprising prose stylist, and her debut novel, The Unfortunates, heralds an exciting new talent with an old soul."
— Christine Schutt, Prosperous Friends