Book Reviews

Book Review: The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell

Book Review: The Cave Dwellers

the cave dwellers

Author: Christina McDowell
Publisher: Gallery Books
Rating: 3 stars
Read: May 2021

Special thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing a free digital ARC of The Cave Dwellers in exchange for an honest review!

The Synopsis

Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington–generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege.

But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question.

They’re called The Cave Dwellers.

Gallery Books

The Review

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave “describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners’ reality, but are not accurate representations of the real world.” (Wikipedia)

And so we have The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell, a story that follows the exploits and secrets of uber wealthy, powerful families in Washington DC who are reeling after the brutal murder of a family much like theirs. It tells coinciding storylines of power couples and their privileged teenage children, who are all connected in some way.

This book is alright. The Cave Dwellers is a compulsively readable novel that I finished in two days- but I’m not sure I liked it. McDowell was inspired by her actual lived experience growing up as a member of the DC elite, which made the story a bit more interesting in hindsight. It is a book about a very insular world that seems to be unraveling from within while fighting off the influence of the rest of the world’s reality.

Besides Bunny and Cate, I couldn’t tell you about any other characters because they’re all interchangeable and completely the same. (Maybe that’s the point?) It was also unclear whether this story aims to be satire, a didactic critique of class and privilege, or a fever dream of wild parties and outrageous disregard for others.

I appreciate what McDowell, a white woman, is trying to do with this book in bringing attention to the engrained racial bias, privilege, and harmful behavior that all white people in the US hold. At this point, though, there are just other authors I’d rather read that tackle this subject. I already know (rich) white people are awful. I don’t need to read a book about it where no one actually changes.

CW: suicide, racism, infidelity

Should You Read It?

The comp to Bonfire of the Vanities meets The Nest is very apt. There are a few funny moments where characters make commentary on themselves, but don’t realize it because no one is self-aware. If you like fast-paced stories about rich people doing awful rich people things, you will enjoy this. It can definitely be fun and escapist to read about people whose biggest concern is whether they will be accepted into an exclusive country club or not.

The Book

Far Flung Readers blog received an Electronic Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell courtesy of Netgalley and Gallery Books in exchange for this honest review.  A big “thank you” to them! You can purchase a copy for yourself through Bookshop here.

Far Flung Readers participates in Bookshop’s affiliate program. You can learn more about our participation here.

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