Book Review: Trust by Hernan Diaz
Homonymic words like trust, futures, bond, securities, and exchange carry significant meaning not only in the domain of finance but also in the realm of human interaction. In his Pulitzer prize-winning novel titled “Trust,” Hernan Diaz skillfully juxtaposes the cold language of commerce with relatable stories of frustration due to exploitation during the booming era of The Roaring Twenties in New York City. On the surface, “Trust,” is about a privileged man who attains immense financial success due to his access to resources, but the real story centers around a need to curate and cultivate the American Titan of Industry archetype. The novel ultimately asks who controls our individual and collective narratives, and who has been silenced or overlooked.
Whose Point of View Will You Trust?
“Trust,” is divided into four sections. The first is a novel-within-a-novel, titled “Bond,” which delves into the histories of tycoon Benjamin Rask and his aristocratic wife Helen. An air of mystery surrounds this couple despite their social and philanthropic activities. Following the novel are three disparate documents for the reader to consider: an incomplete manuscript, a memoir, and a diary. Each document casts doubt on the one before it, leaving the reader to figure out what is true and which of the four authors is worthy of trust.
The NYSE and Competing Histories
Diaz provides us with a glimpse into the history of the New York Stock Exchange as well as some of the lesser discussed US economic “panics” and “financial crises” outside of The Great Depression. More importantly, topics such as immigration (specifically Italian immigration), women’s rights, and issues around capitalism are discussed. Unfortunately the novel avoids the country’s horrific past of chattel slavery.
During my book club’s recent discussion of “Trust,” some readers felt that the abundance of financial information within the first two sections was unnecessary, even tedious. Yes, there’s a lot of information but it’s not excessive. I see this as a stylistic choice to illustrate one of the author’s points: money can establish a distance that prevents proper communication and understanding. The…