Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

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Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This novel centres around two very different characters: one is female, traditional, old-school, intellectual and the other is young, male, brash and new money. How on earth will they get on as new neighbours in rural, small-town America?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Tuskar Rock
ISBN: 978-1848874978

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Doug Fanning appears to be a young man in a hurry. He feels he's done his bit for his country in seeing action in the Gulf War and it's now 'Doug' time. Almost overnight, he's found his vocation and become a banker - a very successful banker. Everything he touches turns to gold. And now he wants to show everyone how well he's done in life and requests that a casino of a house is built to his luxurious, over-the-top specifications. Nothing wrong with that you may say. The man's earned it, good and proper. Or has he? He's chosen to have his executive house built in an area of mature woodland and traditional homes. It's bound to stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. The property market is also extremely buoyant and if Doug chooses to sell he'll make a packet. Win, win situation all round. Or is it?

Doug then meets his nearest neighbour. She's as different as chalk is from cheese. Charlotte Graves (and she's well-named, she is extremely grave) is old-school, old-fashioned. She's retired but her brain and her intellect are far from retired. She's forthright and perhaps too honest in her opinions for her own good. And she has many, many opinions on many, many issues. Doug introduces himself as he's settling in to his new home but his friendly words are swept aside with Trees ... Before you came. All of it. Trees. and stomps off leaving him open-mouthed. War has been declared. And it's a different type of war from the one he knew in the Gulf. Is he equipped to deal with this one?

A protracted and legal battle ensues with the aim of getting this monster of a house demolished. And here Haslett gives the reader plenty of smart, lawyer-speak as the situation see-saws back and forth. In amongst this sorry and upsetting state of affairs, the reader is given the low-down on the global financial markets. Doug appears a natural at amassing money but at times risks getting his fingers burnt.

Ms Graves has a wonderful command of the English language and conducts most of her conversations (whether formal or informal) as if she's eaten an dictionary for breakfast. Lovely stuff. Plenty of entertaining paragraphs of elegant and smart writing by Haslett. An example which stood out for me is when Charlotte is describing her late father as Episcopalian by birth, Presbyterian by temperament, Quaker in abstention, secular to the bone. Brilliant.

Straight away I kind of admired Charlotte, although I didn't particularly like her at times. I certainly admire a single woman of late years standing up for what she believes in. She was no sheep. No follower - of anything. She kept on and on about having little time for the young of America (empty-headed) and no time for the bold, brash Dougs of America (empty-headed and selfish).

Several young people do wander in and out of this novel. But only really on the periphery. And even when they do make an appearance they are much too busy with their own issues. But one young person in particular is linked in a rather odd way to both Doug and Charlotte. Charlotte is a woman who lives in the past. We are also given titbits of Doug's past and it may just surprise you. There may be hidden depths here. Or perhaps not.

This novel involves individual values in a shifting world, post 9/11. Food for thought. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this appeals then you might also like to try The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Buy Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett at Amazon.com.


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