Trust by Hernan Diaz

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While I rarely hesitate to divulge plot twists and probably should always post “spoiler alerts” on my posts, I want to limit that as much as possible for this one. Personally I do not mind knowing what to expect in my reading and in fact consider it a bonus to read with knowledge of what’s coming. But in this case, I enjoyed having the feeling of slowly coming to understand what each of the four parts meant for the previous ones.

The book begins with a short biography written by the fictional Harold Vanner about a titan of the world of finance, Benjamin Rask, whose life story made me think of J.P.Morgan. Having recently read¬†The Personal Librarian,¬†that fictionalized one aspect of Morgan’s life, I had in mind some of Morgan’s story. The biography of Rask and his wife Helen reveals a narrowly focused, solitary man who only loves manipulating the market to amass a fortune. In this telling he and Helen are suited for each other because they are both prefer their solitude to any connections. The biographer lets us know Raskin is an arrogant uncaring person and describes Helen’s sinking into madness in detail.

The second part is a draft written by Andrew Bevel, the man Vanner’s book was based on, to refute that book. The third is written by a woman looking back decades earlier when she was hired as a ghost-writer by Bevel. And finally the Bevel’s wife Mildred gets in a word through her diary found all those decades later by the ghost writer.

The indictment of the world of financial churning is very strong, particularly in the second part.

In the subsequent parts Diaz tells us that we can’t trust what Vanner wrote or for that matter, the “facts” in each of the three subsequent parts. That may make it sound confusing, but the point of view of each part is clear. It was truly a pleasure to see the tale unfold. This book has been named to the longlist for the Booker Prize.

Hernan Diaz, Trust, Riverhead Books, 2022, 402 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available in the public library.

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