We have all heard the saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same", and it couldn't be more true. For anyone who is paying attention to the ongoing drama of out-of-control
power and corruption in our financial world, this book is a must-read. Sinclair wrote it about the Wall Street panic of 1907. Though it is in the form of a
novel, he did his research thoroughly. And much of what he discovered can still be applied today.
It begins as Lucy Dupree, a widow at age twenty-two comes to New York to establish her new home and reunite with her old friends, Allan, Oliver, and Alice Montague, and their mother. They had neighboring plantations growing up in Mississippi, her father being Judge Dupree. When Lucy married a man much older than herself at age seventeen, she moved to New Orleans, losing touch with those people dear to her.
But now she is in New York and wants to be introduced to society. She also requests legal/financial help from Allan who is a fairly successful lawyer.
Oliver is more the socialite, and he arranges for Lucy to have dinner at Mrs. Billy Alden's, a very wealthy and prestigious woman. As Allan Montague chats with Mrs. Billy, he notices Lucy talking with Stanley Ryder, a man of great prosperity and culture who is also the president of Gotham Trust Company. In fact, Lucy spends most of the evening with him.
As Allan and Lucy discuss the evening afterward, he further enlightens her about Ryder.
"A speculator!" exclaimed Lucy. "Why, I thought he was the president of a bank!"
When you have been in New York a while," said Montague with a smile," you will realize that there is nothing incompatible with the two."
Imagine that. . .
Lucy is also surprised to learn that Ryder is married.
The next day, Montague visits Lucy to discuss her financial affairs, the most important being a block of five thousand shares of stock in the Northern Mississippi Railroad, which Lucy wishes to sell. Montague also owns shares, but his father had wished him to keep them as long as the other holders did.
It is this request from Lucy which begins the turn of events that make up the dramatic story related in this book. Allan, against his better judgment becomes involved in a series of activities and transactions that he knows are bad news. In addition, despite his desire to guide Lucy, he soon realizes she is her own person. And she is not taking his advice. Even more tragic is that she understands nothing about the way things work in New York, and the underhandedness of people whom she mistakenly trusts. The final events, leading to the crash will stun you. Even if you have closely followed everyone's activity, even if you THINK you understand what is happening, you will probably still be shocked when the final truth is revealed.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. . .
Sinclair was known for his research and writings on social issues. Wikipedia says:
"Sinclair devoted his writing career to documenting and criticizing the social and economic conditions of the early twentieth century in both fiction and non-fiction. He exposed his view of the injustices of capitalism and the overwhelming impact of the poverty. Wikipedia also quotes Time magazine as saying that he was “a man with every gift except humor and silence.”
This book is highly recommended, and absolutely one of the best I have ever read.
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