"Buzzy and enthralling ...A glorious novel about empires and erasures, husbands and wives, staggering fortunes and unspeakable misery...Fun as hell to read." --Oprah Daily "A genre-bending, time-skipping story about New York City's elite in the roaring '20s and Great Depression."--Vanity Fair "A riveting story of class, capitalism, and greed." --Esquire "Captivating."--NPR "Exhilarating." --New York TimesAn unparalleled novel about money, power, intimacy, and perception Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth--all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1937 novel that all of New York seems to have read. Yet there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit. Hernan Diaz's TRUST elegantly puts these competing narratives into conversation with one another--and in tension with the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction. The result is a novel that spans over a century and becomes more exhilarating with each new revelation. At once an immersive story and a brilliant literary puzzle, TRUST engages the reader in a quest for the truth while confronting the deceptions that often live at the heart of personal relationships, the reality-warping force of capital, and the ease with which power can manipulate facts.
The first part of Trust tells this story in the form of a best-selling novel from that era. The second part is an unfinished memoir or biography of a figure whose life mirrors that of the novel’s protagonist. In the remaining parts, other voices take center stage and ultimately tell the real story.
I will admit that the first two parts of this book had me wondering what all the hype was about. I’m not all that interested in the machinations of the stock market, and don’t care much for depictions of nasty wealthy people. And the “payoff” – surprises at every turn – wasn’t happening for me. Fortunately the third part delivered more of what I was hoping for, and the final reveal was satisfying. I’ve given this book a four-star rating primarily for its innovative structure and plot development.
It's becoming a bit of a
Again, it was a quick read, I just don't get all the praise heaped upon it.
The second section of the book is basically the same story... but this time, it is an unfinished draft of an autobiography written by a wealthy man, clearly trying to justify his accumulation of wealth when the rest of the country was struggling under the Great Depression.
The third section of the book is narrated by a second generation Italian immigrant woman, who has been hired by an immensely wealthy man to ghost-write his autobiography - it becomes clear that she is writing the autobiography of the previous section.
The final section is a collection of journal entries by the wealthy man's wife, written from the sanitarium.
Each iteration of the story gives it new depth, and by the fourth version, it has become a completely different story. The "trust" of the title is partly a financial term, but also encourages the reader to think about trust, and which version of the story is the most trustworthy: ultimately, the reader has to construct their own interpretation of the events.
Diaz's writing is very good, and the four different sections of the book require four different styles. The story itself isn't quite compelling enough to be worth reading four times, but ultimately I'm glad I read the book.
Two narratives about two families compete for attention in this novel. In an attempt to examine power, to dissect the reasons for the economic failure of 1929, and to examine the meaning of the
The book introduces the reader to a novel about the fictional Rask and Bevel families. Helen Brevoort and Benjamin Rask both march to the beat of a different drummer, both prefer their personal, private space to all others, and when they meet, they recognize they are one and the same, and a match is made. Benjamin is known to be a financial genius. She has the gift of memory and mathematics. They work well together. Helen’s father descended into madness, and unfortunately, as time passes, so does Helen Rask. The Rasks survived the many financial crises, right up until 1929, which actually solidified their wealthy place in this fictional history, although Benjamin was accused of engineering the actual crash with his financial maneuvers. As Helen’s illness worsens, she is subjected to extreme treatments in an attempt to cure her. The controversial treatment eventually takes her life, and many blame Rask for selecting the physician and allowing it. This part of the book is based on a novel called “Bonds”. The author, Harold Vanner, portrays Rask as losing his touch after the loss of his wife, his muse, so to speak, so that after Helen’s death, he is all but erased historically. Ironically, Harold Vanner is then erased from history by Andrew Bevel, the man on whose life Rask’s is based.
In the second narrative, which is based on the lives of the Bevel family, Mildred and Andrew Bevel, who are wildly successful in the financial world, Andrew is horrified by the novelist’s depiction of his wife as mad, and himself, as cruel. He wants another book written to describe her more accurately, and to paint a more heroic picture of himself. His idea of accuracy, in his non-fiction book, is to actually alter the reality and create a fantasy, a far more beautiful picture of his wife and himself, than the one Vanner created. He also wants to make Mildred more benign and less influential, although she is his partner and influences the genius behind the throne. In this way, as he reduces her influence, his star will shine brighter.
Andrew Bevel hires a young woman to write the story, Ida Prentice, whose real name is Ida Partenza, . When she discovers that he wants to “whitewash” the story about his wife and expects her to alter their history, she agrees to his terms so as not to lose her job. Bevel is very wealthy and is able to control the narrative, even to erase Harold Vanner from history, so he could also destroy her. He demands utmost secrecy and will not allow her to divulge her work to anyone. She soon discovers that even those she trusts most are untrustworthy. She learns that trust is very fluid, as those closest to her betray her.
Decades later, she reviews the family papers in the library, and once again she is enlightened as she finds that the records have been altered; the truth has been erased. It is her narrative, the one she made up, that remains as the historic memory of the Bevels. Only his sudden death prevented it from ever being published. As she researches the papers, she finds the journals that Mildred wrote; she struggles to interpret them, and she learns the real truth. Mildred was the guiding light of their financial success, manipulating the market with her mathematics skill, but because of the times, Andrew was given all the credit due her. Ida learns that no one is totally innocent and without blame. Truth and trust are elusive. The illusion of the powerful is just an illusion. As Andrew Bevel instructed, he was able to alter and bend reality because of his wealth and his power. This is true, even today, as the wealthy use their influence to manipulate our world.
I don't find finance/business interesting, and I found myself skimming discussions of shorts and whatnot.
I am pretty much tone deaf and did not understand the music discussions at the end
And though I did like and appreciate the different stories told, in the end it really just reminded my of a relatively recent book. But naming that book might be a spoiler. So I am hitting return a bunch of times and will put it way down there. Scroll down if you want!
.possible spoiler below
Fates and Furies
This is a tough novel to describe, without spoiling the wonderful story structure that Diaz has built here. It begins with Benjamin Rask, following his rise in the financial world, in the 1920s, to become a Wall Street Tycoon. Cool and a bit ruthless. This is presented as a novel in a novel, called “Bonds”. Okay, what follows will have to be up for the reader to discover and it is brilliant. The title is perfect because “Trust” permeates nearly every page, in it’s many different forms. My favorite book of the year.
The focus on the financial brilliance and manipulation of the stock market by Andrew Bevel (and his wife) overwhelmed any sense of the history of the time period for me. The characters weren't affected by the financial disaster that affected the entire world. Rather, Andrew suffered solely from the loss of his reputation as a financial genius.
The third section "A Memoir, Remembered" is told by Ida Partenza, the woman who served as a ghost writer for Andrew Bevel. She is the daughter of an extreme anarchist; her father hating all wealth and anything related to the middle class values of obtaining possessions.
The final section is a copy of the "lost" diary of Mildred Bevel, the wife of Andrew. Interesting twist as which story can you trust.
The book has a lot to say about arrogance and extreme wealth and the ability for one man to actually "change the facts" so that it suits him. Interesting book - well written.
It could be called historical fiction - set against the backdrop of the great financial crash of 1930, and some of the characters play a leading role in stock exchange investing.
But the book is more about memory and
The author uses an unusual structure to tell the story - four separate accounts ostensibly by four separate writers. The reader is given no introduction - the first account starts on page 1. I was particularly grateful that the author saw no need to spoon-feed the reader - the full intent of the book gradually becomes clear.
This is one of the very best books I've read in the last few years, but I see from my browsing that not everyone agrees.
There are quite a few interesting historical aspects of this book. It covers the rampant speculation leading up to the crash of the stock market in 1929. The ghostwriter’s father is a member of an anarchist group, which is at odds with her work for a financier and causes family conflicts.
It will take a bit of patience to fully enjoy this book. I found the first two sections, the novel and “autobiography,” extremely dull. I almost gave up on it. Then we get to the third section, and I started to get interested. If the book had only consisted of the last two sections, with perhaps excerpts of the first two, I would have enjoyed it much more. As it is, I can only say I enjoyed half.
I found this book to be entertaining and quite interesting, both for its style as well as its substance. Of course, whether you like the sort of meta-fictional playfulness exhibited by the novel’s structure might depend on how traditional you like the stories you read to be. While there are certainly plenty examples of post-modern literary excesses, some of my favorite recent reading experiences have experimented with composition to great effect, including Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Whether the Diaz’ work rises to the same level of renown as those novels remains to be seen, but it is clear that Trust offers an intricate and well-conceived story in which all of the puzzle pieces fit quite nicely, even as the main plot line bounces back and forth through the years.
It might be easy to understate the quality of story itself for all the stylistic sleight-of-hand the author employs, but this would be a mistake. Diaz demonstrates a nice knack for combining historical fiction of the Jazz Age and Great Depression eras with the mystery of just how the Bevels accumulated their wealth in the first place. Although the resolution of the mystery is not particularly surprising—it is signaled well in advance of the final nested section—the entire story is engaging and compelling, particularly when Ida’s memories take center stage. I especially enjoyed the realistic depictions of how capital markets functioned in the 1920s and 30s and how easy it was to manipulate them. Indeed, one of the unifying themes in the novel is the many ways in which powerful men and women seek to bend the truth for either their personal gain or to shape the narrative of their legacies. A striking irony of the book’s title is that none of the narrators is totally reliable, and the reader is left wondering just who he or she can actually trust. This is a thought-provoking book and one that I can highly recommend.
Very interesting way to write a novel.
As a matter of craft this book is dazzling. In a nutshell Diaz wrote a novella which, if given to people without a cover or title page most would guess to be the work of Wharton. It is really enjoyable -- not a major work but a pleasant and well constructed one. The novella ends after roughly 100 pages and we begin to see what went on behind the curtain. First we see the turgid and badly crafted outline of an autobiography of the waspy wealthy man who ostensibly inspired the main male character in the novella, then we get the story of the plucky immigrant woman hired to to ghostwrite the book, and finally the journal of the odd and brilliant woman who came from an old family (by American standards) but whose family needed to find a well of cash, who ostensibly inspired the main female character in the novella. So we get the thing and the deconstruction of the thing and we do learn the truth of what really happened in a way that brings the whole thing together. It is impressive. Diaz is a superb writer. The problem is that the deconstruction left me not caring a lot about the story. I was stuck in the engineering and when you get stuck in the engineering, and you focus hard and come to understand the way a thing is constructed, there is no more magic. I like a little magic.
Maybe the construction is a metaphor for the concept of heroes -- once we look behind to curtain the magic is gone and we are stuck with mere mortals who are not terribly enchanting. But that was pretty well covered in the Wizard of Oz and now I want my illusions back.
TRUST can be considered to be a novel written by Hernan Diaz. It consists of four stories: a novel written by the fictitious Harold Vanner, an autobiography (actually more
I would say that Ida is the main character. You won’t know that until you are more than halfway through the book, though.
The novel BONDS is presented first because, you will later realize, this is the story that Ida reads first. It is the story of a filthy rich man who made out like a bandit during the Depression and is thought by some to have caused the Depression. You will later understand that BONDS is considered to be the real-life story of Andrew Bevel. The problem is, you are left to understand later too much. That makes for a frustrating read.
Next comes MY LIFE, the autobiography written by Andrew Bevel to correct the implications in BONDS. This is an unfinished manuscript. You will understand in the next story that MY LIFE is actually ghost written by Ida. And you won’t understand why it is unfinished until you read the next story. There are similarities between MY LIFE and BONDS, but you won’t be sure that the husband and wife in MY LIFE are the husband and wife in BONDS until you read the next story. I was still frustrated with a lot of unanswered questions.
Lots of questions are answered in the next story, A MEMOIR, REMEMBERED by Ida Partenza. Now Ida explains much of what I didn’t get.
FUTURES, Mildred Bevel’s diary, explains what Ida didn’t get but not until years and years later. Although Ida already understood that Mildred, not Andrew, was the main character in MY LIFE (and BONDS), she didn’t understand to what extent until she read FUTURES.
TRUST talks a lot about finances leading to the Great Depression. I found it frustrating more often than not. I’m still not sure what point Diaz was trying to make; he surely was trying to make a point.