The Umbrella Man
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
Today is my stop on The Umbrella Man blog tour. It’s actually my first ever blog tour and therefore marks a sort of milestone for me on my blogging journey. For this, along with many other reasons, is why The Umbrella Man is a novel that will undoubtedly stay with me.
The Umbrella Man is a book about capitalism, corporate greed, environmentalism and how the effects of these are filtered down to affect ordinary people in their everyday lives. The story focuses on a number of different characters but particularly follows Peter Mount, who is founder and director of London-based rare-earth mining company, Rareterre. Throughout the novel we follow his company’s decline, in part due the Royal Bank of Scotland’s amounting debts but also as a result of his own actions.
As someone with incredibly minimal knowledge of the financial sector, I was a little apprehensive about reading this book. A complete novice will probably struggle with some of the financial jargon used in this book and I’m not ashamed to say that I did have to google a couple things I was unsure about, but that didn’t really bother me. The biggest reason I wanted to read this book was to educate myself about the financial crisis of 2008 and I definitely think it did that. The use of glossary terms at the back is also a useful feature and does seem to blur the line between fiction and non-fiction, which I found extremely interesting.
I was also very intrigued by the title of the novel. It is clearly a critique of bankers and their cynical nature: ‘A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.’ However, my immediate thought when I read the title was of Roald Dahl’s story, of a man who is able to manipulate others and therefore exploit the gullible nature of people. In the book this is explored through Jolene who is swayed into taking out a loan for a property by a man she is unrequitedly in love with. It is also presented through the characters’ unwillingness to believe that RBS, one of the biggest banks in the world, could ever go bust.
The novel is incredibly ironic. Amy Tate joins a group of environmental activists to combat the road noise she hears outside her apartment but is hugely unaware of the global impact her actions will cause. Men at the top of their career in investment banking are portrayed as wanting either money or sex, primal to the extreme. I think it is the novel’s use of almost farcical stereotypes that makes the story so comedic and keep the tempo going in what is a fairly sizeable novel.
I found this such a refreshing read. I think since the financial crash is in our recent past, in many ways it still hasn’t been properly addressed in fiction. However it has now been over 10 years since the credit crunch of 2008 and people are still experiencing the impact of the crash. This book is a documentation of the experiences of those who were affected, managing to be both informative and accessible to the average reader.
The one thing I would say is that I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likeable. Though, upon reflection, I think this is perhaps by design since they aren't meant to be heroic, but rather real people inspired by true life events.
I would recommend this book to someone with an interest in finance and history, but also in environmentalism. An original read which forces us to look back on our past mistakes and reflect on the far-reaching implications of our every day actions. 8/10.
I received a free review copy of this book, I’d like to thank the author, Keith Carter, the publisher, Neem Tree Press, and Anne Cater.
Check out who else is on the tour!