Read as part of CBR14Bingo: Dough. The book involves a man who makes a lot of money (“dough”) off the stock market in the 20s and 30s and how stories revolve around him.
I was excited to get this one given both the premise and reviews. I have a yen for these kinds of neo-Gatsby stories set in the early part of the 20th century that examine finance and/or gangsterism juxtaposed with the American Dream. Legs by William Kennedy qualifies for this label, as does Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach. However, while I loved those two books, I can only say I liked this one. And while I did think it was good, I find myself mildly disappointed the more I think of it.
I don’t know what to share without spoiling but this is essentially a book-within-a-book-within-a-book, which is a difficult concept to pull off but, to his credit, Hernan Diaz does a good job. Starting from the fictional novel based around the real life man, continuing towards his (obviously uncompleted) memoirs and finally finishing with the person who wrote those memoirs and a surprise at the end, each “book” feels unique and fully realized and the stories all mesh together well enough.
The issue is, Diaz wants to tell a larger tale about how the wife has a larger role to play in the narrative than outsiders perceive. And while I appreciate this, because he keeps the actual wife off-page for most (maybe all? You’ll have to read) of the book, the reminisces and revelations don’t feel as powerful as they should. So what you’re left with basically is a boring rich couple who got super rich while everyone else was getting poor and didn’t do much with their money or really live an exciting life.
The writing is good and I encourage the curious to try it but it fell a little flat for me. Gets 4 stars because of how well Diaz executed the concept, even if I wish he were telling a different story.