320 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $17.99
ISBN: 9781942658993


ISBN: 9781954276000

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“A smart, razor-sharp exploration of the precarious island of academic life and the cold unforgiving waters that surround it.”

Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

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“A compelling novel about friendship, education, and purpose, all illustrated through a cast of flawlessly realized characters.”

Susan Perabo, author of Why They Run the Way They Do and The Fall of Lisa Bellow

“Siobhan Phillips’s portrait of a stalled would-be academic is thrillingly intimate and ambitious in its scope, evoking at turns Rachel Cusk, Lynn Steger Strong’s Want, and Christine Smallwood’s The Life of the Mind. Deadpan and dread-filled, shadowed by the specters of war and late capitalism, Benefit probes both the futility and necessity of intellectual work, all in the wry, wise voice of an uncommonly clear-eyed friend.”

Jessica Winter, author of Break in Case of Emergency and The Fourth Child

“[A] telling debut novel of money, power, and friendship. It exposes the hypocrisy of the byzantine inner workings of the reward system of cutthroat academic politics, the fraudulent patina of family-run foundations, and the bitter consequences of toxic relationships.”

World Literature Today

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“A superb academic novel.”


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Benefit is a fascinating twist on the typical campus novel. While most such novels acknowledge the presence of rigorous hierarchies in academia, Phillips adds a sophisticated and intensely sharp critique of how capitalism has weaponized the system of meritocracy.”

On the Seawall

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“A subtle achievement of the novel is its balancing of social critique with awareness of the shadow aspects of the consciousness through which they are processed and articulated.”

North of Oxford

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“Offers a way to navigate deprivation and privilege in the modern world. . . . Benefit is an exercise of the mind, a delight for the senses, and a cleansing of the intellect.”


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“An important satire looking at the world of foundations and fellowships in academia.”

Book Riot

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“[An] intricately structured novel that will appeal to readers interested in peering through the window of this rarified world.”

Portland Book Review

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Benefit is a fascinating novel—both a portrait of an industrial empire and revelatory about the elitist greed that often shadows philanthropy. It is also an unnerving glimpse into the impoverishment of academia, as scholars compete for part-time work and paltry salaries.”

Foreword Reviews

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“Phillips’s assured debut novel blends a complex journey of personal realizations with insights into the dark side of ambition and power.”


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“A smart, thoughtful read.”

Library Journal

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“Incisive. . . . Pulls back the veil on university hierarchies and social privilege.”

Publishers Weekly

“Highlight[s] the toxicity and ethical gaps that underlie much of modern academia and philanthropy . . . with striking social commentary.”

Kirkus Reviews

Benefit is a playful, inventive, and urbane coming-of-almost-middle-age novel that reveals Phillips’ acute eye for understanding insincerity and facetiousness in elite spaces.”

Sophia Hardin, Third Place Books Ravenna (Seattle, WA)

Laura, a student from a modest background, escapes her small town to join the ranks of the academic elite on a Weatherfield fellowship to study at Oxford University. She enthusiastically throws herself into her coursework, yet she is never able to escape a feeling of unease and dislocation among her fellow chosen “students of promise and ambition.”

Years later, back in the United States with a PhD and dissertation on Henry James, she loses her job as an adjunct professor and reconnects with the Weatherfield Foundation. Commissioned to write a history for its centennial, she becomes obsessed by the Gilded Age origins of the Weatherfield fortune, rooted in the exploitation and misery of sugar production. As she is lured back into abandoned friendships within the glimmering group, she discovers hidden aspects of herself and others that point the way to a terrifying freedom.

Benefit is a vivid debut novel of personal awakening that offers a withering critique of toxic philanthropy and the American meritocracy.

Reading Group Choices “Editors’ Pick” selection

Foreword Reviews “Book of the Day” selection

Library Journal “Debut Novels from Authors To Watch” selection

The Millions “Most Anticipated Books” selection

Books & Books “Selects” Staff Pick

Excerpt from Benefit

Watch Siobhan Phillips in conversation about her debut novel Benefit in the Charis Circle reading series and read an interview with her at Book Q&As.

Read an excerpt from Benefit in Shelf Unbound (pp 48-49).