House of All Nations is a fictional tale dependent on the dramatic events of economic history to substantiate its fantastic plot. At the center of the novel is the Banque Mercure, ostensibly run by the Bertillon brothers. The brothers’ official, legal responsibility for the bank’s mysterious but apparently successful inner workings, however, exists more in the minds of the institution’s clients than it does on paper. As Jules says, “It’s easy to make money. You put up the sign BANK and someone walks in and hands you his money. The facade is everything.” The petty European aristocrats, South American plantation profiteers, and American businessman who deposit at the bank and rely on its stock-exchange services are continually buoyed by the profits they see themselves making thanks to the financial wizardry of the enigmatic but gracious Jules Bertillon. Yet, while the men who make these fortunes and the bank which helps them flourish share a penchant for the trappings of elegance, as demonstrated in the clients’ refined manners and the plush atmosphere of the bank, they also share less glamorous common attributes. The private matters of neither the institution nor those it serves can withstand close inspection.
In this realm of precarious financial stability, where a facade of substance and reliability is carefully maintained, Jules Bertillon reigns over all. Everyone in the bank—employees, clients, even his brother William—thinks that...
(The entire section is 603 words.)