Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

union atlantic

[Editor’s Note: No, your mind is not playing tricks on you – we did have a review of this book previously, but given that we’ve eight contributors, I figured that this would not only happen eventually, but be interesting to see how the reviews compare and contrast]

This book by an American author I hadn’t heard of before is on the surface a modern tale of conflict between a nouveau riche investment banker blow-in from Boston, Doug Fanning and a retired liberal schoolteacher, Charlotte Graves.

Fanning, a high-flying ruthless amoral executive in the eponymous bank has built a trophy home next door to Graves’ run-down farmhouse after buying a site formerly owned by her family which had been donated to the local town, Finden, Massachusetts as parkland in perpetuity.  On the surface it seems a hopeless fight for Graves, now very eccentric, who seems to spend a lot of her time having political discussions with her two dogs. Everyone has a past, however, and Fanning, Graves and the bank are all connected to the local town either directly or indirectly. The fact that Charlotte’s brother Henry is a federal bank regulator who also is investigating Union Atlantic perhaps stretches coincidence too far. I think too many links to current issues are introduced, for example rogue trading and the US wars in the Middle East which aren’t developed.

I found this a reasonably engaging tale of modern America, though perhaps the author over-complicates the history of his main characters, neither of which are particularly likeable, though perhaps their complexity gives a feeling of realism to the novel. Still, worth a read.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

imagine me gone

I recently reviewed another Adam Haslett book Union Atlantic and I’ve just finished his more recent and newly published, Imagine Me Gone.

This has been without question the best book I have read this year. It centres on a family, John, Margaret, Michael, Celia, and Alec and how they are affected and deal with anxiety and depression. Now that is bound to put off some people who will think, Oh No, I couldn’t read that it sounds miserable however It is anything but! This a novel just bursting with love. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different family member. Haslett works this seamlessly and develops and layers his characters so brilliantly that he gives us a wonderful insight into how they struggle with guilt and finding their own happiness. He asks us how much would you sacrifice to save those whom you love?  How much is it possible to?

It took Haslett 5 years full time to write this novel, and it shows. The writing is exquisite, the insights, painful, honest and relevant. He avoids all the possible pitfalls, making his characters unbelievable, laying it on too thick etc. I felt that I knew his complex sympathetic family. I wanted them to find peace, to succeed, to find their own solace. I reread many passages, I started to read more slowly to absorb his words. I cried. I will definitely read it again. This was not a depressing novel, It was abundantly rich with love.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.



Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

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Adam Haslett’s debut novel, after his Pulitzer Prize nominated collection of short stories You are not a stranger here, was published in 2010. It tells the story of Doug Fanning; a former soldier in the Iraqi war, he is now a senior executive at a bank named Union Atlantic. Due to a serious of somewhat shady financial maneuvers, Doug had made Union Atlantic extremely successful. He is handsome, driven,  wealthy although having grown up poor with an alcoholic mother he secretly abhors the wealthy people he works for and of which he has become.

The book settles on a battle of two houses between Doug who has built a McMansion on land previously owned by the family of Charlotte Grieves. Charlotte is an old eccentric former teacher from a true blood New England family. She despises this new greedy corporate America of which Doug epitomises. She decided that she alone will wage war against Doug and all that he stands for. There are a number of smaller plot lines running through the novel. But ultimately it is about how society has changed in America. Where morality fits in with greed and what is it that we value.

Haslett pitches this battle extremely well. He is a superb writer and made me thoroughly enjoy a novel that deals with venture capitalism. Not merely that but he made it make sense to me! I loved the battle and the stubbornness. There is a depth to this novel that makes it so much more than a war of corporate greedy America versus old values America.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.