Okay. The other day I was looking at our shelf of new books and was astonished to see Trust by Hernan Diaz sitting there un-checked-out. I could not believe it. I had just read the book a few months ago and was so impressed by it that I thought: right here, one of the best books of the year. Folks are going to be fighting each other to get their hands on it. Instead, there it was, staring back at me, just being a book not being read. But let me explain.
The book is set in the early decades of the 20th century. Its main character is a robber baron type financier. Think Andrew Carnegie or J. P. Morgan types. The story alone is interesting, but Hernan Diaz also structures the novel in a way that is completely new to me. You begin by reading a novel titled Bonds. Yes, you are already reading a novel, but it’s a novel within the novel, a work of fiction set in the historical fiction world of Trust. You with me? The next section of the book is the unfinished memoirs of Andrew Bevel, the person who was fictionalized in Bonds, a book he is unhappy with as it paints him and his wife in an unflattering light. After that we get the story from the perspective of his secretary, many decades after his death. And finally, we get the long-lost journals of Andrew Bevel’s wife, Mildred.
What is brilliant about this book is the layering, the way in which the story is revealed, not through successive plot points, but through different perspectives. It’s a story of money and power and who gets to tell the story of a person, of who gets to write the history books. Though it is set one hundred years ago it is an oddly relevant book. Real power today is the ability to shape the perception of reality as Andrew Bevel did with immense success.
Good news though, folks. As I was finishing this post, Trust was gone, off the shelf and in someone’s hands. I was the able to sleep easily knowing that someone was reading Trust and being exhilarated by the gradual truths that are revealed layer by layer.