TRUST – Hernan Diaz

The Booker Prize longlist was announced last Tuesday, which means my Booker countdown has officially started. I began the baker’s dozen of books with Hernan Diaz’s Trust (Riverhead Books, 2022), a cocky and bold literary experience about truth and memory, trust and fiction. The novel is told in four separate parts by four separate fictional characters. (I was quickly reminded of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet.)

The first section is Bonds, a fictional novel by Harold Vanner.  The second is a rough, work-in-progress autobiographical sketch of Andrew Bevel. The third is a memoir by Ida Partenza, and the fourth is the diary of Mildred Bevel.  How Diaz works these four very different styles and voices into one cohesive and breathtaking novel is indicative of his literary genius, and why I anticipate this novel to make it to the shortlist.

Bonds was a work of fiction that was extremely well-received and read by everyone in New York.  Telling the story of the eccentric and filthy rich Wall Street tycoon, Benjamin Rask, and his equally eccentric wife, Helen Rask, the novel chronicles Rask’s rise to near godlike status in the financial industry, soaring even higher during the market crash that he profited from, and his wife’s cocktail parties, support of the arts, and eventual fall into madness.  Benjamin and Helen Rask were fictional, but clearly based on Andrew and Mildred Bevel. (I’m pretty sure Truman Capote inspired Vanner’s character, who we never actually see.)  Andrew decides to write his own story to erase the history provided by Vanner. He hires a young Italian woman, Ida Partenza, to write it while simultaneously using his power and influence to destroy Vanner and erase Bonds from the world.  In his version, Mildred is a delicate and feminine wife who succumbs to cancer. Ida quickly realizes that Mildred likely falls somewhere between how Vanner wrote her and how Andrew wants her remembered.  Decades later, the Bevel papers become open to the public.  Ida has been riddled with shame, guilt and curiosity for her efforts in rewriting a history and misremembering a woman, so she finally seeks the truth.  She finds the slim volume titled Futures in the collection – it’s Mildred’s final diary.

Trust is one hell of a cleverly executed ride that shows not only how power and money can rewrite history, but how strong and intelligent women are treated and remembered (and forgotten) by the men in their lives.   We see this not only with Andrew and Mildred, but also with Ida and her jealous boyfriend, Jack.

Read this book.

Booker count 1 of 13.

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