High Latitudes Critical Essays

James Buchan

High Latitudes

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Highly paid and highly talented Jane Haddon has become managing director of Associated British Textiles, with seventy thousand employees and four thousand million pounds in capital employed, responsible at the age of thirty for what is left of the United Kingdom’s clothing industry in 1987. Divorced from Johnny, Lord Bellarmine, she lives a lonely, driven life despite being beautiful, brilliant, and the highest paid female executive in Great Britain. Unfortunately she still loves Johnny, who has married Candida Turpe, the niece of Roderick (Roddie) Wynyates Turpe, the most successful and unscrupulous Members’ Agent of Lloyd’s of London.

Serving as the context for the adventures of Jane is a collection of business, social, and political upheavals, most of which center or impinge on Lloyd’s of London, the three-hundred-year-old king of the insurance business, which saw its enormous profits turn into stunning losses. Some thirty thousand “Names”—underwriters/investors drawn mostly from the British gentry who, although low on cash, had significant reserves of land and other property—had underwritten the risks insured at Lloyd’s. Johnny Bellarmine is one of those names whose disaster Jane Haddon seeks to avert through her own fiscal wizardry while resuscitating the British textile industry. These plans run afoul, however, with the notorious labor problems of Britain during the 1980’s as well as her own hidden past of abuse and drugs.

All in all, James Buchan, a former writer for the LONDON FINANCIAL TIMES, has served up a swiftly paced, deliciously ironic novel that weaves together themes of avarice, abused childhood, selfless psychiatric workers, brilliant women, men in search of self, and the world of London commercial interests who, while on the rise, meet and clash with the world of the landed gentry on the decline. The detonation is loud, the novel brisk and fascinating, a moral fable for the business world.

Sources for Further Study

Boston Globe. November 24, 1996, p. N16.

The Guardian. April 12, 1996, p. 10.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. November 17, 1996, p. 2.

New Statesman and Society. IX, April 12, 1996, p. 40.

The New York Times Book Review. CI, November 17, 1996, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, September 16, 1996, p. 68.

The Spectator. CCLXXVI, April 13, 1996, p. 34.

The Times Literary Supplement. April 12, 1996, p. 23.