Union Atlantic shows that the subject of business is not exclusive of a good story.
A review by Shawn Quinn
by Adam Haslett, Nan A. Talese, 320 pages, $26.00, Hardcover, February 2010, ISBN 9780385524476
Before starting Adam Haslett's new novel Union Atlantic,
I read the jacket copy which featured words like New York Federal Reserve, financial beast, and senior manager, and saw that the story has a banking industry backdrop. Then I read that one of the key characters has frequent conversations with her two dogs (?). Well, definitely not your normal combination in storytelling. But after reading the first chapter, much to my surprise, I found myself totally hooked.
In 2002, Union Atlantic is the largest bank in Boston and is experiencing unprecedented growth in the financial world. The credit belongs to Doug Fanning, the young and cocky vice-president. Using aggressive methods that are somewhat unorthodox (read: illegal), the bank's, and Fanning's, flame never burned brighter. But, after building an over-the-top McMansion in a country suburb next to the independent - but odd - Charlotte Graves and her dilapidated home, he finds himself in a fight over a piece of land that he never imagined. To make things worse is the fact that Henry Graves, president of the New York Federal Reserve and keenly interested in Union Atlantic's rise, is Charlotte's loving, but distant brother. Charlotte may be eccentric (yes, she's the one with the dogs), but her moral compass is set straight and she will not be bullied.
The way that Haslett seamlessly turns from the immediate character conflict to a fascinating explanation of the banking world and how it works makes this book especially enjoyable. It's shocking how people can have their lives affected by such a small group of rich and powerful players and amazing how fragile our financial system can be.
While this book is not overly focused in the business world, it does provide an interesting setting, one that can easily be used to great effect in the fiction world. (Authors take note!) Union Atlantic
shows that the subject of business is not exclusive of a good story. And it shows that no matter what your circumstances are, we are constantly affected by the world of business whether we realize it or not.