When Julian Welch meets Alan Reid as he tries to make his fortune in the world, his naivete does not prepare him for the corrupt partnership that happens as they form the Welch-Reid Company, or the horrors that awaits the next generation in the Welch family directly because of Alan Reid’s actions.
Initially, this novel starts following the two main characters, Julian Welch and his business partner, Alan Reid as they make their fortune in latex in the jungles of Brazil. Spanning almost seventy years, it evolves into a record of the lives of three generations of Welch’s and ultimately culminating in the very jungle where it began.
The stark contrast in the values and moral standards of the two men are repeated throughout the novel as Julian matures into an ethical businessman and philanthropist after making his fortune, while Alan continues to try and control everything, including wanting to take control of Julian’s wealth after his death. Alan goes so far as to arrange the marriage of Julian to his second wife (after his first love tragically dies) in order to obtain this goal.
Readers get a glimpse into Reids character early on with his bullish and unethical anctics. For example, when he feels he has been cheated in the amount paid for their latex, he uses his friendship with the local police chief to have Jaques arrested, even though he and his workers were paid and accepted what was given.
We also get to see how alan treats and views women, likening the romantic relationship Julian and Jandira initially has with his own twisted thoughts of “I wouldn’t mind finding myself a whore.” This obvious disdain towards women and his disregard of them is echoed through the book in Alan’s actions of abuse and psychological manipulation.
I liked that I hated Alan Reid. His character uses super villain esque type manipulations to subvert and control generations of the Welch family and others in his sphere of power and privledge.
Overall, I enjoyed the fact that there are strong female characters that drive the story forward. From Jandira of 1918 (being an instrumental part in the start of the rubber wealth) to Christel Welch of present day, saving the forest of Brazil and working on behalf of the indigenous people and their plight.
There are times in A Goddess among Men, when I could not put it down, and there are times when I thought, yep, some men are totally like this. I need a break. I think it is a testament to Davidsohn’s writing that I was able to really dislike a character so easily.
Although A Goddess among Men starts with the two Male characters, it ends with the story of Christel Welch, heiress and philantropist. How she takes control of her life, saving and reinventing the company her father built, while trying to erase and come to terms with her dark and tragic past. From early adulthood to her later years, her strength of character propels her forward.
While I personally, could not relate to Christel or Jandira, I appreciate that they are written as they are. And there are a number of other female supporting roles in the novel for readers to choose from, so characters don’t seem cut from the same mold.
I would recommend A Goddess among Men to adult readers, as it contains mature themes (like psychological manipulation, abuse, and rape) and references to them in chapters. This book is unique and interesting. I was able to finish it easily in two days.