Book Review: The Umbrella Men by Keith Carter

When I received this book from Neem Tree Press, I must admit I was a little dubious. I’m not (too) ashamed to say that numbers and finances are not necessarily my strong point and being presented with 450 pages based on the financial crisis from the late 2000s, I did wonder if this book was really for me. However, like several other reviewers over on goodreads, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. 

The book follows three main groups of characters and while there are a lot of names to follow, they generally crop up together in their groups, so it wasn’t particularly hard to keep track of them all. There’s also useful character list to help keeps tabs on everyone. There is the group of investment bankers, headed up by American Jay Andersen; the business partners of rare metal mining company Rareterre, with a particular focus on CEO Peter Mount and his family based in London; and finally, Amy Tate who has recently exchanged the rat race for a life in rural Oregon. Upon arrival at her beautiful new home, she is horrified when her peace and tranquility is disturbed when large trucks from the local mine begin driving up and down the road several times a day, leading her to join a local group of environmental activists.

When Amy and her new friends decide to try and stop the mining company from digging up the land nearby (each individual with their own motivation for doing so), it has unexpected repercussions around the world, with a particular impact on the financial markets. Author Keith Carter looks at the crisis from the perspective of individuals and smaller companies as well as from the big investment bankers at the top of the food chain. He looks not only at the financial losses but also the personal cost involved in the aftermath of the crash. The writing and character development leaves you really rooting for some characters, empathising with others and yet when others get their just desserts, you despise them alongside the other characters in the book.

Author Keith Carter, himself a former banker who lost his job as the CEO of a smaller company as a result of the crisis, wrote a interesting piece about the book and his motivations for writing it for the Big Issue. While I will admit some of the financial discussions went over my head a little (there is a glossary of financial terms at the back), that didn’t detract from my pleasure of reading the book or stop me from really getting caught up in the story.

So if you’re looking for a book to really get your teeth into, look no further than The Umbrella Men.

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