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Novel Thoughts: Review of Trust by Hernan Diaz

This may be one of my new favorite books. If you haven't read it, the book is written in four parts, the first a fictional novel entitled Bonds by a character named Harold Vanner; the second an unfinished memoir of a rich New York financier, Andrew Bevel; the third, a memoir of a successful writer looking back at her time as Andrew Bevel's secretary and ghost writer; and the final section, a diary written by Andrew Bevel's late wife Mildred.

This book is a masterclass in voice. The first section reads like a contemporary of Edith Wharton or Henry James, a novel-within-a-novel written as an exposé of Andrew Bevel and his wife, Mildred, in the tale of the fictitious characters of Benjamin and Helen Rask. The second section, the unfinished memoir by Andrew Bevel, has a tone that I can only describe as the absolute certainty of a man who believes that his personal narrative deserves to be put out into the world, because, you, dear reader, will be better off for having read it. The third portion has the standard voice of a modern memoir, first person and openly accessible. And the final part, perhaps my favorite, the personal voice of a clearly brilliant polymath facing her inevitable demise at a Swiss sanitorium, complete with random musings, deep observations and sentence fragments, capturing perfectly the essence of "notes-to-self" and Virginia Woolf styled stream of consciousness.

I put off reading Trust because of some of the reviews I'd read that said the book was about Americans' obsession with making money and the world of high finance, the idea of which bores me, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, money and finance are in there, but the themes of the book center more on the American myth of the self made man and the erasure of all those, women in particular, who contribute to the Great Man's success. I find it interesting that both of Diaz's books deal with American mythology (In the Distance, picks apart the myths of the American West and manifest destiny) and I would love to ask him if/how his experience as an immigrant shapes his writing and his choices of subject matter.

I highly recommend listening to any of the interviews Diaz gave about this book (both pre and post Pulitzer nod) for entertaining insight into his crafting of the novel and his writing life. I confess, I now have a bit of a professional crush on the erudite and charming Diaz.

And so I leave you with a nod to Mildred Bevel. This tune has been playing rent free in my head since I read the final page:

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