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The Lehman Trilogy
Cover of The Lehman Trilogy
The Lehman Trilogy
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

Magnificent in scope, internationally lauded, and transcendent, the novel in verse that inspired the sensational West End and Off-Broadway play of the same name. The Lehman Trilogy follows the epic rise and fall of three generations of that infamous family and through them tells the story of American ambition and hubris.
After leaving his native Bavaria, Henry Lehman arrives in America determined to make a better life. Sensing opportunity in the Deep South, he opens a textile shop in Alabama, laying the foundation for a dynasty that will come to dominate and define modern capitalism. Emanuel and his brother Mayer begin investing in anything and everything that will turn a profit, from cotton to coal to railroads to oil to airplanes—even at the expense of the very nation that forged them.

Spanning three generations and 150 years, The Lehman Trilogy is a moving epic that dares to tell the story of modern capitalism through the saga of the Lehman brothers and their descendants. Surprising and exciting, brilliant and inventive, Stefano Massini's masterpiece—like Hamilton—is a story of immigration, ambition, and success; it is the story of America itself from a daring and original perspective.

Magnificent in scope, internationally lauded, and transcendent, the novel in verse that inspired the sensational West End and Off-Broadway play of the same name. The Lehman Trilogy follows the epic rise and fall of three generations of that infamous family and through them tells the story of American ambition and hubris.
After leaving his native Bavaria, Henry Lehman arrives in America determined to make a better life. Sensing opportunity in the Deep South, he opens a textile shop in Alabama, laying the foundation for a dynasty that will come to dominate and define modern capitalism. Emanuel and his brother Mayer begin investing in anything and everything that will turn a profit, from cotton to coal to railroads to oil to airplanes—even at the expense of the very nation that forged them.

Spanning three generations and 150 years, The Lehman Trilogy is a moving epic that dares to tell the story of modern capitalism through the saga of the Lehman brothers and their descendants. Surprising and exciting, brilliant and inventive, Stefano Massini's masterpiece—like Hamilton—is a story of immigration, ambition, and success; it is the story of America itself from a daring and original perspective.

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About the Author-
  • Stefano Massini (1975) is an internationally renowned novelist, essayist and playwright. His plays, including his celebrated The Lehman Trilogy, have been translated into twenty-four languages and staged by such directors as Luca Ronconi and the Oscar-winning Sam Mendes. Qualcosa sui Lehman has been among the most acclaimed novels published in Italy in recent years and won the Premio Selezione Campiello, the Premio Super Mondello, the Premio De Sica, the Prix Médicis Essai and the Prix Meilleur Livre Étranger. His other works include Dizionario inesistente (2018) and Ladies Football Club (2019).

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 13, 2020
    Italian playwright Massini’s lush, sprawling novel in verse, which inspired an eponymous Broadway show, presents a fictionalized story of the Jewish immigrant Lehman family and their multigenerational role in the history of American capitalism. Heyum “Henry” Lehman, son of a cattle merchant, arrives in America from Bavaria in 1844. He enters the cotton trade in Montgomery, Ala., and his two brothers, Emanuel and Mayer, soon join him. Decades later, with enough capital to invest in banking, oil, and automobiles, the brothers groom three of their sons for places in the business. The third generation of Lehmans thrive despite the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression, and they are aided by cousins who go into politics and law. They persevere through WWII and the Red Scare under the leadership of Robert, but in the 1960s, Robert fails to prepare the company for the oncoming computer age, and after a slump in the 1980s, the family business is sold to American Express. Massini’s energetic, plainspoken epic reads like a never-ending folk ballad (“He left with America fixed in his head/landed now with America in front of him/but not just in his thoughts: before his eyes./Baruch HaShem!”). Fans of experimental fiction will find this rewarding.

  • Kirkus

    April 15, 2020
    A fictional history of the immigrant family that built a great American financial institution. Source for the eponymous stage production, Massini's imposing novel in verse tells the story of Lehman Brothers, the venerable investment banking firm whose unimaginable collapse in 2008 helped trigger the Great Recession. Beginning with the arrival from Bavaria, in the mid-19th century, of brothers Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer and the establishment of first a grocery store and then a cotton trading business in Montgomery, Alabama, Massini follows three generations of this German Jewish family as it sinks its roots in unfamiliar soil and then, through shrewdness, daring, and tireless work, forges a worldwide financial empire. Expansive and intimate, sober and playful, Massini's novel focuses less on arcane financial maneuvers and more on the outsized personalities of the Lehman family members who drove the company's success. Among the most memorable are Sigmund, son of Mayer, who steels himself for leadership by memorizing a list of 120 draconian rules for ruthless business dealing, and Emanuel's grandson Robert "Bobbie" Lehman, art collector and owner of racehorses, who shepherded the bank through the Depression and into the modern era, sowing the seeds of both its continuing prosperity and its ruin. Massini departs from the Lehman financial saga for a portrait of Herbert Lehman, Sigmund's brother, the liberal reformer who challenged some of the excesses of capitalism displayed in the family business while serving as both governor of New York and senator from that state. With the aid of a vibrant translation from the Italian, the novel takes on an epic quality as the Lehmans relentlessly expand the scope of their business, accumulating vast wealth and economic power, while devoting themselves with equal single-mindedness to the acquisition of social status, the latter effort symbolized in their drive to shoulder aside rivals and move to the front row of their New York City synagogue. A vivid account of one remarkable family's role in shaping modern America.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from June 1, 2020
    The Lehman Trilogy, a 2012 Italian radio play turned into a full-length play that has been a hit throughout Europe and in London and New York, was set for Broadway when COVID-19 hit. Anyone eager to see it will get quite a show in this enthralling treatment of the same material; to wit, the rise, efflorescence, and fall of Lehman Brothers, the massive investment bank whose crash in 2007 spurred the decision that some banks are too big to fail. Massini tells the whole story, from Bavarian Jewish immigrant Hayum Lehmann?Henry Lehman?disembarking in New York in 1844, moving to Alabama, and launching the family fortune with cotton trading to the moment, 38 years after the last Lehman brother dies, that the megabank collapses, as somewhere, Around the table / a glass table, three generations of brothers observe. Each of these 11 men advances the company in his own way. The form of the narrative is verse, free but full of poetic devices (e.g., alliteration, anaphora), the manner alternates between realism and character vivisection, and the tone is that of the most ingratiating omniscient storyteller who ever spun a yarn. On stage, just three actors perform it; on the page, it's a panoramic circus, and ravishing, rollicking reading all the way.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    June 19, 2020

    Based on an internationally celebrated play that originated on Italian radio in 2012, this new novel by Massini (Ladies Football Club) is essentially about commerce, addressing the rise of Lehman Brothers. It begins in 1844, when Heyum Lehmann lands at Ellis Island, Americanizes his name to Henry Lehman, and hightails it to Alabama to escape the chilly northeast climate. After achieving modest success with a store specializing in dry goods and cotton products, Henry calls for his brothers Emanuel and Mayer to join him. Soon after, the idea of expanding into other ventures begins to germinate, and by book's end there isn't an area of commerce that the family hasn't dabbled in and mostly profited from. What's especially notable about this rags-to-riches story is how it's told. It takes only a few pages to realize that what could have been a dense, fact-filled story is actually breezy and lyrical, moving quickly in Dixon's fist-rate translation. VERDICT With its vast scope, the book should appeal to readers of historical fiction, and fans of experimental fiction will enjoy Massini's offbeat approach to the material. While keeping track of who's who can be a bit difficult (there's a helpful family tree), this challenging but ultimately rewarding read is a surprising pleasure. [See Prepub Alert, 12/2/19.]--Stephen Schmidt, Greenwich Lib., CT

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2020

    Based on the West End and Off-Broadway hit set to open on Broadway in March 2020, this saga shows the Lehman family traveling from Bavaria to Alabama, where Henry sets up a profitable textile shop, then flourishing as his brothers Emanuel and Mayer invest in cotton, coal, and transportation that brings wealth but sometimes hurts the community. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Massini is the real thing. His writing is smart, electric, light on its feet. (...) "The Lehman Trilogy" lives on the page because of its human moments: the wooing of spouses; the scandals and feuds; the perilous attempts to climb the class ladder.
  • Booklist (starred review) "On stage, just three actors perform it; on the page, it's a panoramic circus, and ravishing, rollicking reading all the way."
  • The Economist "A grand morality tale about God, greed, conquest and family."
  • Le Figaro Littéraire "Written as a poetic and dramatic song, it dazzles with intelligence and humor."
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