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Geoffrey Blaisdell, the narrator, brings Dreiser's characters and 1870's Philadelphia setting alive in this compelling study of a maverick stock operator.
This is what "Wall Street" or "Bonfire of the Vanities" should have been.
If you're looking for insight into the world and minds of the "Masters of the Universe", you'll find that human nature is timeless, and that the American financial and legal systems, which Dreiser describes in detail, haven't changed that much.
The book opens shortly before the US Civil war and ends with the panic of 1873, when financial houses in New York and Philadelphia rose to prominence funding the Union's side of the Civil war and the subsequent railroad boom.
The books character's are strongly drawn and compelling - especially the protagonist, Frank Cowperwood, and his mistress Eileen Butler. Dreiser's prose is a thing of beauty and his eye for detail is unmatched.
I'm proud of Blackstone for reviving this worth book, and hope they will record all three in the series.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Do not be misled by the title. This is a novel. It is about generational families and their ways of surviving when uncontrollable events threaten their ways of life. The book was first published in 1912. It is set in the last quarter of 19th Century. The too big to fail financial houses in that era had names like Cook, Vanderbilt, Gould, Morgan etc.. The newspaper headlines then might have appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal. This was the period after the ending of the Civil War and at the beginning of the Great American Expansion to the West; a period marked by unrest, social change and financial turmoil. As always in periods of change, there are great opportunities for the building of great fortunes for those with the required intellect, insight, and discipline and for the fortunes accumulated in the past to melt away as new players and rules enter the game.
The main characters are in Philadelphia with financial contacts in New York City, Boston and other commercial centers on the East Coast. The triggering event for the story was in the great Midwest: The Great Chicago Fire. The destruction of the financial, commercial, transportation and manufacturing districts triggered a financial panic for banks and securities houses from Chicago to Wall Street.
Dreiser uses this setting to develop and illustrate his classic tale of love, money, power, politics, greed, lust, broken homes and prison time for the weak and for the strong. It is the story of an intellectually gifted young man who is rapidly rising in the financial and social worlds and is dealt a staggering blow when he cannot get the resources to allow him to stay afloat during the panic triggered by the Great Chicago Fire. Dreiser shows how in times of crisis the character of people is revealed, whatever their rungs on financial, political and social ladders may be. The tale he tells is compelling and is as relevant today as it was in 1912.
Theodore Dreiser is an American Classic writer and this is one of his best. I recommend it for the writing and for the narration. It is a great read (listen).
3 of 3 people found this review helpful