Saturday, October 6, 2012

Julie's Review: Ghosts of Manhattan

Summary: A wryly comic, first-person debut novel offering a withering view of life on Wall Street from the perspective of an unhappy insider who is too hooked on the money to find a way out, even as his career is ruining his marriage and corroding his soul. It’s 2005. Nick Farmer is a thirty-five-year-old bond trader with Bear Stearns clearing seven figures a year. The novelty of a work-related nightlife centering on liquor, hookers, and cocaine has long since worn thin, though Nick remains keenly addicted to his annual bonus. But the lifestyle is taking a toll on his marriage and on him. When a nerdy analyst approaches him with apocalyptic prognostications of where Bear’s high-flying mortgage-backed securities trading may lead, Nick is presented with the kind of ethical dilemma he’s spent a lifetime avoiding. Throw in a hot financial journalist who seems to be more interested in him than in the percolating financial armageddon and the prospect that his own wife may have found a new romantic interest of her own, and you have the recipe for Nick’s personal and professional implosion. By turns hilarious and harrowing, Ghosts of Manhattan follows a winning but flawed character as he struggles to find the right path in a complicated urban heart of darkness.

Review: Nick isn't very likable but that's kind of the point. I wouldn't even say at the end of the book he was much better but he was on the right path. Ghosts of Manhattan isn't even about the fall of the financial markets, although that is touched upon, a bit so that you understand a bit more about what drove the markets to dive. It is about one man's struggle to separate himself from his job and to realize that he's worth more than being in Sales at Bears Stern.

Nick has been in the job for 13 years and it's starting to take it's toll on his marriage, his health and his psyche. He's beginning to fall apart. He's beginning to feel like an old man among the 20 year-olds who are fresh out of school. He starts to let his insecurities get the best of him in his marriage.

I don't know why I'm shocked by the excess of the people who work on Wall Street. It isn't so much the money but their lifestyle. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that cocaine and sex are at the forefront of this culture but I thought maybe after a few years it would get a little old. Unfortunately, in the case of the characters in this book, it doesn't. They seem to revel in it.

I always say that men don't really mature past the age of 12, but the men who work in the financial markets are even worse (I know there are good ones there too). They become greedy, self-centered, self-destructive and have no feelings for anyone else. It isn't until Nick stares at some of this behavior right in the face that he decides he's had enough.

I would definitely like to have had an epilogue telling us a little bit about Nick's life a year or two later. I think it would have been nice to see if he did change once he was out of that environment.

I have a feeling that books like Bond Girl by Erin Duffy and another in my TBR Pile, Black Fridays by Michael Sears, about the financial meltdown novels are the next big subject matter. Let's say they are similar to Ghosts of Manhattan and it won't put the people who work in the financial markets in a very good light.

If you are looking for a book that has a sense of humor while dealing with some abhorrent behavior, then Ghosts of Manhattan is for you.

Final Take: 3.5/5



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