As a long-time financial professional and a neverending lifelong learner, reading fiction has its place for any student of business. Most of the best novels are about anything but business. That means fiction lovers are relegated to works like The Goal, Lencioni’s fables, or The Phoenix Project. Finally, Hernan Diaz has released a novel in which a wealthy financier is a central character. But is it any good?
Recommended by Mary Childs
When I interview authors on the CFO Bookshelf podcast, the last question I ask them is about the books they are reading or their favorites. One of the co-hosts of Planet Money, Mary Childs, and author of The Bond King, told me her agent recommended Trust by Hernan Diaz.
Mary Childs. One would think I’d buy the book immediately. Not yet. I did a search on the author and the first link I clicked was this interview between Seth Meyers and the author.
Hook, line, sinker. I bought it. I didn’t let the book collect dust in my Kindle repository. I got started immediately. Sorry Brian Scudamore, you’ll need to wait a week or more.
No Spoilers, But I’m Still Not Sure About My Rating
I do not consider myself a professional book reviewer. I’m the guy who can talk about a book over lunch, but to spit out witty and clever lines as Siskel and Ebert did with their movie reviews–well, I’m not that good. But let me give this a try.
Any reader of the book will tell you about the story structure of the book before attempting to explain the plot and the underlying message in the novel. And that’s what makes this novel unique as there are four parts to this book:
- The first part is a short novel about a wealthy financier and his wife who later passes away.
- The second part is an autobiography of the real person written about in the novel. His purpose is to get the story right for readers who loved the novel. Andrew Bevel does not like the way he was portrayed in the novel.
- This may seem complicated, but the third part is a narrative by the writer asked to re-write a better memoir of this wealthy financier.
- The last part includes a plot twist in the form of a diary of the wife who passed away in both the novel in part one and the autobiography.
Sound confusing? I’m glad I watched the Seth Meyers interview before I started reading the book because I would have been clueless once I got to the second part of the book. I knew that the second section would not be a continuation of the first part, I just didn’t know what to expect.
Is it good? Is it bad? It’s okay. It’s not a plot that reaches out and grabs me. It’s probably a story I will not remember in a year or two. The only likable person in the entire book is the writer who was hired to rewrite Bevel’s memoir. They wrapped her section up nicely, but I was expecting more from her.
I’m not sure what the author is trying to tell us. That there is more to money in life? Sure, not kidding. However, my favorite line in the book is in the second part when Adam Bevel, the wealthy financier gives his take on the education of a professional such as himself:
He is the true Renaissance man. And this is why I gave myself to the pursuit of knowledge in every conceivable realm, from history and geography to chemistry and meteorology.
My years as a student gave me a solid foundation for this sort of disciplined curiosity.Andrew Bevel, Trust, pages 149 to 150
By the way, I’m not the only one who is lukewarm regarding this book. As of the date of this article, the weighted average rating on Amazon was 4.1 on more than 1,200 reviews. Reviewers at Goodreads are not much kinder–only 3.89 across 7,000-plus ratings.
Here’s my rating. I’m giving it a 3.5 but only because of the novel approach to the story structure. What about you? What’s your rating?
Every life is organized around a small number of events that either propel us or bring us to a grinding halt. We spend the years between these episodes benefiting or suffering from their consequences until the arrival of the next forceful moment. A man’s worth is established by the number of these defining circumstances he is able to create for himself. He need not always be successful, for there can be great honor in defeat. But he ought to be the main actor in the decisive scenes in his existence, whether they be epic or tragic.Diaz, Hernan. Trust (p. 173). Penguin Group