Summary and book reviews of Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

Union Atlantic

By Adam Haslett

Union Atlantic
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2010,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2011,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

At the heart of Union Atlantic lies a test of wills between a young banker, Doug Fanning, and a retired schoolteacher, Charlotte Graves, whose two dogs have begun to speak to her. When Doug builds an ostentatious mansion on land that Charlotte's grandfather donated to the town of Finden, Massachusetts, she determines to oust him in court. As a senior manager of Union Atlantic bank, a major financial conglomerate, Doug is embroiled in the company's struggle to remain afloat. It is Charlotte's brother, Henry Graves, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, who must keep a watchful eye on Union Atlantic and the entire financial system. Drawn into Doug and Charlotte's intensifying conflict is Nate Fuller, a troubled high-school senior who unwittingly stirs powerful emotions in each of them.

Irresistibly complex, imaginative, and witty, Union Atlantic is a singular work of fiction that is sure to be read and reread long after it causes a sensation this spring.

Chapter 1

A plot of land. That’s what Doug told his lawyer. Buy me a plot of land, hire a contractor, and build me a casino of a house. If the neighbors have five bedrooms, give me six. A four-car garage, the kitchen of a prize-winning chef, high ceilings, marble bathrooms, everything wired to the teeth. Whatever the architecture magazines say. Make the envying types envious.

“What do you want with a mansion?” Mikey asked. “You barely sleep in your own apartment. You’d get nothing but lost.”

Finden, Doug told him. Build it in Finden.

And so on a Sunday morning in January 2001, Mikey had picked Doug up at his place in Back Bay and they had driven west out of Boston in a light snow, the gray concrete of the overpasses along the Mass Pike blending with the gray sky above as they traveled the highway that Doug had traveled so often as a kid. It had been six years now since he’d moved back up to Massachusetts from New York. What had brought him ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide
The discussion questions and other material that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Adam Haslett’s debut novel, Union Atlantic, a deeply absorbing and accurate vision of American history as lived in our modern gilded age—the first decade of the twenty-first century.

About This Book

At the heart of Union Atlantic lies a test of wills between an ambitious young banker, Doug Fanning, and a retired history teacher, Charlotte Graves, who has suddenly begun to hear her two dogs speaking to her in the voices of Cotton Mather and Malcolm X. When Doug builds an ostentatious mansion on land that Charlotte’s grandfather donated to the town of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Adam Haslett has absorbed the newspaper headlines and reimagined them as a pitch-perfect, tightly plotted novel of a singular moment in all-too-recent American history.... Union Atlantic is a novel sent into the future, a novel so embedded in its time that, like The Great Gatsby or Bonfire of the Vanities, it will epitomize a specific cultural moment to later generations... Haslett brings into embodiment the individual desires that power the global financial network.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Gary Shteyngart
Adam Haslett's page-turner of a debut novel ranges brilliantly from the Strait of Hormuz to the outskirts of Boston to the belly of the financial beast—New York's Federal Reserve. It explains to me, with humor and style and generosity, how we became America in the year 2009. A must read.

Author Blurb Malcolm Gladwell
Adam Haslett has the rarest of talents: the ability to combine a powerful intelligence with storytelling that is both elegant and suspenseful, and to break your heart in the process. Union Atlantic is a masterful portrait of our age.

The Washington Post - Ron Charles

It's a profound, strikingly intelligent story about the cost of living in a world in which real values have been supplanted by a fiat currency of self-interest and empty promises.

The New York Times - Liesl Schillinger

In Union Atlantic, swiftly and confidently, Haslett unwinds the ball of yarn that is the global financial crisis to reveal its core: a knot of ineluctable yearnings and individual needs.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This book should be of interest to readers fascinated but perplexed by the current financial crisis, as it is able to navigate the oubliette of Wall Street trading to create searing and intimate drama.

Esquire

The first great novel of the new century. It's big and ambitious, like novels used to be. It's about us, now. All of us

USA Today

Readers will get an economics lessons wrapped in a literary novel packed with gorgeous prose and the punch of a first-rate thriller.

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Beyond the Book

Many of the reviews and articles about Union Atlantic (like this one, or this one) laud Adam Haslett for writing about the collapse of the financial markets before it happened. He handed his editor a first draft of the book the week that Lehman Brothers folded in 2008, one of the events that precipitated the current recession. But the book is set much earlier, in the spring, summer, and fall of 2002, and one of the book's pleasures is the way it nominates this particular moment for historical attention. In the long shadow of the 9/11 attacks, some of the events that crop up in the novel include:

  • The housing bubble: When the dot com bubble burst in 2000, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates, making mortgages a cheap and safe place for ...

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