A well-traveled veteran of the legal and business worlds reflects on his experiences in the 20th century and beyond.
In this debut memoir of elite education, international finance, and expatriate living, Coulson demonstrates how judicious name-dropping can add a dash of spice to an already intriguing life story. He tells tales of a childhood marked by constant travel between the Bahamas and the United States (“we moved like migratory birds, following the same cycle every year between the same three nesting places”) under the care of a mother who kept everyone, including her husband and her ex-husband, in harmony. He also writes of his successes at Phillips Academy in Andover and Yale University and of a legal career that began at one of New York City’s leading firms. Overall, Coulson reflects on his journey with an air of contentment. At one point, for example, he shared a beer with “Mike, the Chief Inspector of the uniformed force, and Lefty, the Chief of Detectives,” while taking a detour into civil service; at another, he tested his mettle with commentator and fellow sailor William F. Buckley Jr., who appreciated a challenging sea: “At its prospect a wild light flashed in Bill’s eyes with an excitement akin to skewering a muddled liberal on Firing Line.” The author’s skill as a dealmaker took him to Mexico and England, though he ultimately made his home in the Bahamas, finding a place in Nassau’s financial world while avoiding the Wall Street scandals of the 1980s. The author is aware that his upbringing was a privileged one, but the memoir spends little time analyzing this status: Andover is called “the closest thing to a democratic meritocracy,” and a dinner is served by a friend’s “Oriental houseman.” In Coulson’s slice of society, divorces, including his own, are always amicable. However, readers looking for a portrait of achievement and satisfaction will find it here, with the author’s elegant turns of phrase (“an event that proved as awkward as The Great Gatsby reception”) propelling the narrative from one engaging anecdote to another.
A keenly observed, fast-paced memoir.