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Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett.

To some, Doug Fanning would seem to have it all, yet he is damaged goods. His traumatic childhood and experiences in the Gulf War have left him emotionally stunted. Post 9/11, he seemingly lives for his job as a high-powered investment banker, caring for nothing and no-one, and he takes risks – big ones.

Charlotte Graves used to be a teacher, now retired she moulders in her ageing home in the New England countryside with just her two dogs for company.  She keeps her mental cogs going with occasional tutoring in history; Nate, a confused teenager, is the current recipient of her wisdom.

Fanning is now in that dangerous mid-life crisis period of his life and having grown up in a poor village, builds his dream house in the posh one up the road where his mother had cleaned houses.  Unfortunately it’s next door to Charlotte, and on land that used to belong to her father and she thinks she still owns.   He’s now battling on two fronts – home and work, as it’s all going pear-shaped hedging on the Nikkei.

We despise Fanning for the mess(es) he gets into, and it’s pity rather than sympathy that he engenders as we gradually find out what makes this hollow man tick. As for young Nate – get a grip man!  Charlotte is not an easy woman to like, but we can sympathise with her predicament – a brilliant mind edging into decline - her financial bigwig brother Henry would like to get her into a home, but he is humouring her in her courtcase over the land rights with Fanning:

Sauntering drowsily in from the living room, the Doberman rested his head in Charlotte’s lap, and Henry watched his sister pat him gently on the head.
“You know it’s funny, ” she said. “All weekend, I’ve tried to convince Wilkie here that you’re a good sport but he won’t believe me, will you Wilkie? He’s convinced you’re a member of the Klan.”

As evidenced above, the book is not without humour.  Haslett’s style though is very dry and observational, the characters tend to describe rather than feel their own emotions, so you can strongly visualise the scenes; particularly those involving Doug where you’re almost a bystander.  I felt that the plot suffered slightly from the interlocking coincidences that coalesce the stories of the characters together, but this is a timely novel, reminding us of how we got to the state we’re now in both at home and abroad. 
Tuskar Rock Press – Hardback, 304pp.  I chose this book from a list supplied by Amazon Vine. (7/10)

For another review visit Just Williams Luck.

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Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett.

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