Union Atlantic, Adam Haslett, Atlantic Books, RRP£8.99, 320 pages
After seeing action in the Gulf with the US navy, Doug Fanning channels his ruthless ambition into investment banking. Opportunistic and vain, he takes a ballsy approach to rule-bending that ensures swift promotion in Boston’s top-drawer Union Atlantic bank. However, building a flashy mansion brings him into conflict with his spirited neighbour, Charlotte Graves. The retired history teacher is “waging a rhetorical insurgency against the enemies of civilisation” – starting with Fanning.
Their dramatic legal tussle is only one thread of the novel’s rangy plot. Fanning’s damaged upbringing clashes with Charlotte’s privileged New England heritage, raising thorny questions of rights and entitlement. Haslett’s fluent prose captures the adrenalin charge of financial and personal risk-taking, while a throng of acutely observed characters add depth.
This assured debut novel is a cracker – politically aware, morally engaged and circling our ambiguous engagement with civic society.