discussing Tilney’s new novel, The Expectations, “a deeply resonant, brilliantly nuanced meditation on privilege, social ambition, and the folly (and cruelty) of youth.”–Kate Walbert
“Alexander Tilney applies supple, panoramic prose to the deep interior of an exclusive Northeastern prep school, with arresting results: at once anthropological and visceral, The Expectations provides an authoritative glimpse into a rarefied world of privilege–and announces a dazzling new voice in American fiction.”– Jennifer Egan
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St. James is an exclusive New England boarding school known for grooming generations of leaders. Ben Weeks is a true insider–his ancestors helped found the school, his older brother taught him all the slang, and he’s just won a national championship in squash.
But after fourteen long years of waiting, Ben arrives only to find that the reality of St. James doesn’t quite match up with his imaginings. At the same time, his new roommate, Ahmed Al-Khaled, the son of a fabulously wealthy Emirati sheik, can’t navigate the unspoken rules of New England blue bloods. Even as Ben and Ahmed struggle to prove themselves in the place they have revered for so long, each of them must face losing it forever.
The Expectations is at once a finely drawn portrait of American privilege and a subtle exploration of class, race, and tradition. Above all, it is a tender, sharp, and evocative debut about the pain and treachery of adolescence, and the difficulty–wherever one finds oneself–of truly belonging.
Alexander Tilney received an MFA from Warren Wilson College and has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony. He lives in New York with his partner, theater artist Sarah Hughes.
Katharine Dion is the author of The Dependents. She lives in Berkeley.