March 25, 2010
Staff Picks: Business in Fiction: Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett
A review by Shawn Quinn
Union Atlantic 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.
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.