Two Novels That Are On The Money

When American writers write about people with money, the results have often been spectacular. Reviewer Alan Cheuse says New York novelist Jonathan Dee's new book The Privileges gives every one of his predecessors a run for their money. He also says that award-winning story writer Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic is just as terrific to read.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but when money is at the root of fiction, the results can often be quite good. Think Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, or more recently, Dominick Dunne.

Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, says we can add two more writers to that list: Adam Haslett with his first novel, "Union Atlantic," and Jonathan Dee with his new novel, "The Privileges."

ALAN CHEUSE: You may think you're in a John O'Hara novel when you read the wedding scene in the opening pages of "The Privileges." The sharply edged sentences about the manners and worries of the bride and groom, Adam and Cynthia Morey, and their families and friends make you wince and smart as the bridal party trashes a fancy Pittsburgh hotel.

As a couple, the Moreys take New York by surprise and make money, piles and piles of money. Adam makes shrewd decisions, some of them criminal, in a market begging to be taken.

Jonathan Dee has a great eye for detail, physical and emotional. He invites us to watch with eyes wide open as the Morey family sails past disaster into a future most people, until they read about such matters in novels as good as this, would think they'd like to inhabit.

Just as terrific to read is the first novel by award-winning storywriter Adam Haslett. His book is called "Union Atlantic." That's the name of an investment bank for whom a young Navy veteran named Doug Fanning goes to work and where he soon becomes management's boy wonder.

Fanning, though, has major problems with his love life. No serious romance for him, just affairs around the office, and he becomes involved with a teenage boy in the New England town where he builds a new home.

So the suspense in the reading of this novel pertains as much to the personal as the public, as much about love and emotion as the world of contemporary American business and the markets in particular.

Where do you invest your money? How do you invest your emotions? Each of these terrific new novels has different answers, each satisfying in its own way.

SIEGEL: The books are "The Privileges" by Jonathan Dee and "Union Atlantic" by Adam Haslett. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University.

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