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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TOO POSH TO FAIL
I thoroughly enjoyed Justin Cartwright's "Other People's Money" even though it totters on the tight line between serious fiction and light comedy before collapsing decisively into the latter territory.

OPM recounts the last days of Tubal & Co, a merchant bank that has been a national institution since "Moses Tubal set himself up at the sign of the Leathern...
Published on 20 Mar 2011 by Diacha

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing - but overblown characters
This story of a traditional British bank getting out of its depth due to hedge fund gambles during the recent banking crisis is wittily told. Its sense of fun comes from watching the steady demise and desperate scrambles of the old school tie brigade - and their hangers on - as they come to realise that the game could be up.

A life of living very nicely indeed...
Published on 24 April 2012 by Tom Doyle


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing - but overblown characters, 24 April 2012
This story of a traditional British bank getting out of its depth due to hedge fund gambles during the recent banking crisis is wittily told. Its sense of fun comes from watching the steady demise and desperate scrambles of the old school tie brigade - and their hangers on - as they come to realise that the game could be up.

A life of living very nicely indeed on other people's money could be about to end: under pressure cracks are revealed as cash is smuggled out of Liechtenstein bank accounts, self-made American moguls begin to call the shots, trophy wives start playing around, and paintings by Matisse and South of France yachts are put on the market.

There are some very funny characters - including the impressario/playwright in Cornwall who stops getting his trust fund payments from the bank (and whose theatrical outbursts reminded me a bit of Monty from Withnail and I), the naive newspaper hack who's on £60 a story for a local paper and becomes the centre of the plot, the desperate Lady Trevelyn-Tubal with her gym instructor ways.

The book harpoons the banker world of never actually making anything real... but, for me, the tone switches so often from the serious to the downright daft, with silly gags and swearing that jars and often seems totally out of character, that you can't really settle into the book.

Is it a farce or an "important tale of our times"? Is it straight up slapstick (a la Tom Sharpe) or something a bit more subtle (a la Tom Wolfe)? Anyway... it's interesting and amusing and worth it for the spectacle of watching the bankers squirm!
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TOO POSH TO FAIL, 20 Mar 2011
By 
This review is from: Other People's Money (Hardcover)
I thoroughly enjoyed Justin Cartwright's "Other People's Money" even though it totters on the tight line between serious fiction and light comedy before collapsing decisively into the latter territory.

OPM recounts the last days of Tubal & Co, a merchant bank that has been a national institution since "Moses Tubal set himself up at the sign of the Leathern Bottle by Bread St in 1671." Sir Harry Trevelyan-Tubal (the family has moved beyond its Jewish roots) still cuts a fine figure but, sequestered with servants in his Antibes villa, he has lost his mind and is steadily shuffling of this mortal coil. Julian, his second son has been thrust reluctantly into the chair while Simon - "the hairy heir" pursues an alternative calling. Under Julian's leadership, Tubal strays from Sir Harry's banking basics and the "silken thread of connection" to customers to experiment with Gaussian risk curves, hedge funds and CDOs. The bank is in trouble and in order to plaster over the cracks to permit a quick sale to the very American Cy Mannheim, Julian resorts to a last ditch manipulation of the accounts involving misuse of the family trust. Naturally, all does not go smoothly.

Cartwright brings a gentle touch to his satire (though one character central to the subplot, the ex -husband of Sir Harry's younger wife, Fleur, is well over the top), and he writes delightfully. Thus, we learn that the life of the old rich is "patinated," their subtle luxury established by increments rather than in an interior decorator's fell swoop; Fleur observes that her dying husband's eyes are bloodshot and imagines that " his soul has been crying"; and the pilots of Julian's plane, which is on standby to take him anywhere at a few minutes notice, "are joking, chubby young men from the deep, rugby-playing suburbs."

Enjoyable though it is, "Other People's Money" is hardly the definitive novel about the recent financial crisis heralded by some of its professional reviews. The plot is light, the characters stock, and the analysis of the banking world wistful rather than penetrating. Even Julian's misdeed is more like a white lie than a high crime - virtually everyone from the prime minister to the bank's customers and most lowly employees are better off as a result of his victimless legerdemain. On the Richter scale of fiction, OPM ranks somewhere between Peter Mayles and the Sebastian Faulkes of "A Week in December." It is no less readable for that, but it is hardly the "The Way We Live Now" of our times.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Failure in The City, 30 Oct 2011
This review is from: Other People's Money (Hardcover)
I found this disappointing in almost every way. Justin Cartwright sets himself up with some very large targets to aim at, but I feel he missed them all, except for one which I'll come back to.

Set aside the fact that the plot is unconvincing, because most of his readers won't be interested in the minute reality of running a bank into the ground. But at least he could have avoided leaden cliche, both in characterisation and speech: "Lovely jubbly, kushti." Really? And would the boss of one of the world's most venerable institutions reply, when complimented on his suit, "Gieves & Hawkes"? I found the continual posh-product-name dropping incredibly tiresome, a lazy and tedious way to try to convey the notion of wealth.

I found the characters unremittingly close to caricature too, none more so than Artair, the writer who comes across as a camped-up cross between Donald Sinden on E and Brian Blessed on a bad day.

So if you sacrifice accuracy of both detail and characterisation, what are you left with? A cracking good plot? For a while I thought this was it, but honestly, it peters out horribly. I've no doubt it is intentional. Its part of the big idea of the book. But if you write a book that's essentially reliant on plot, then you make the plot as undramatic as this one turns out to be, you're asking for trouble.

Which brings me to the one genuinely good thing about this book: I think it does convey well how little control anyone really has over the events that most shape their lives. But what a frustrating way to make this slim point.

He's a good-natured writer, but this is certainly not one of his better books, in my view.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars City Gents, 24 April 2012
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A page turner and fun to read. Well informed about financial community behaviour. There must have been a number of alternative endings. The individual epilogues were left a lot of loose endings. But all good fun even if we all wish we could live in the style of the family in the South of France ( at least for a short while.)A good Justin Cartwright story and more fastidious in language than many of his other offerings.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Middlemarch of the British banking crisis?, 3 April 2011
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Other People's Money is ambitious. Like Middlemarch, it sets out to show us the state of the nation: a nation - ours - which allows its financial system to collapse to ashes while believing that subsidised dramatisations of Thomas the Tank Engine are an entitlement.

In its scope and sweep, Other People's Money delivers on its ambition. The cast of characters is large, the different locations beautifully rendered. We get to understand why and how a revered financial institution is brought to its knees: the answer lies in a difficult relationship between a tyrannical father and an uncertain son. Here, however, I thought things could have been dealt with in a little more depth. The psychological explorations of the novel's characters are accurate and credible, but they perhaps lack a little power. I will not be pondering the father-son relationship in ten years time in the way that I still ponder, going back to Middlemarch, why the hell Dorothea Brooke married Mr Casaubon.

But there are memorable characters: the writer Artair is one. I think we are supposed to feel sympathy to him, but to me he seems to be a monster. Perhaps however, that is because he reminds me of someone I know. And the fact that I can think "Oh Artair is just like so-and-so" is a tribute to Mr Cartwright's ability to characterise properly.

So, all-in-all this book is a very strong recommend: there are few novels which have tackled our current predicament, and there are few contemporary novels as well-written generally.

And the final page contains one of the best coups de theatre that I have ever read in a novel. Do buy it, you'll enjoy it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Engagement..., 23 Mar 2012
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Boot-Boy (Gloucestershire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Other People's Money (Paperback)
Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, (and dangerously so for such short a book) this tale of a family bank brought down by financial malfeasance somehow managed to lure me on, with an occasionally witty, sometimes worldly and often well-observed take on characters both hateful and human, decent and twisted. But from start to finish I never felt any sense of narrative grip or acceleration, just a gradual unfolding of events - chapter by chapter, character by character - put into play by a writer who kept the engine purring gently in third gear without ever managing to engage the revs and push a little further. A pretty balloon only half inflated. Which, ultimately, was a disappointment. As was the ending. This could have been so much more, so much better...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "What powers this whole merry-go-round? Who is actually creating the money?", 17 April 2011
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Other People's Money (Hardcover)
Julian Trevelyan-Tubal, the second son of Sir Harry, is now the eleventh generation of Tubals to have run the family's bank, an old and prestigious institution which has, not surprisingly, fallen victim to the same deteriorating economic forces as every other bank and investment company in London and around the world. Julian, who succeeded his father after his father's devastating stroke, is trying to keep the business all together, though "it is not so easy to be born rich in a world where everything that surrounds you from birth is old and beautiful...a world where you are steered, like it or not, towards the family business." Julian's role is even more complicated than usual, since his father "never understood that to produce a decent return you need financial instruments that banks of deposit never dreamed of. The cozy world, in which, for example, undisclosed assets could be left undeclared and untaxed, had changed for ever."

Julian has quickly discovered how tenuous the bank's position has become during the current economic crisis. Fortress Lion, the bank's hedge fund has been a disaster. Donations to family charitable trusts have ceased, as have payouts, and even Sir Harry's beloved yacht is about to be sold to a Russian plutocrat. In order to sell the bank, which has eight hundred million pounds worth of toxic assets and useless mortgages, Julian has borrowed two hundred fifty million pounds from the family trust to shore it up. Julian is frantic, aware that he is not very different from "Leeson, Enron, and Lehman Brothers, who tried to hide their debts," and he doesn't want his family name to become similarly tainted.

Adding to the drama of the financial crisis are well drawn stories involving people from Julian's family. Artair MacLeod, formerly married to Sir Harry's much younger wife, has been given a monthly stipend for life, but he is frustrated because he has not received his allotment for more than two months, and he needs it to produce a play. Sir Harry's long-time assistant, Estelle, a homely woman who was in love with Sir Harry, will do anything to protect him and the family reputation, and Cy Mannheim, who wants to buy the bank, suddenly asks for more complete financial data. In the meantime, news leaks about the Tubals' financial dealings appear slowly and complicate Julian's life.

Whitbread Award-winner Justin Cartwright uses his dry wit and sense of satire to tell the story of the Tubals, for whom "The money simply imploded. It no longer exists. Nobody can explain it." A straightforward, no-nonsense author, he creates personal scenarios in which the reader will appreciate the consummate ironies even as s/he identifies with the characters. He makes the effects of the financial crisis fully real while making his characters remarkably human. Even the tricky interrelationships among the financial institutions, the governing bodies for these institutions, and the press (the most important source of information for the public), though over simplified, are laid bare. In the conclusion, almost an afterword, Cartwright brings the reader up to date, connecting all the characters and telling how they have coped a couple of years later. Ultimately, "People talk about true stories. As if there could possibly be true stores; events take place one way and we recount them the opposite way." Cartwright reconciles the questions involving the main characters, but he leaves many other questions up in the air. Mary Whipple
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable and elegant, 3 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Other People's Money (Paperback)
I am a big Cartwright fan, and although Other Peoples' Money isn't as nuanced and rich as some of his earlier work (The Promise of Happiness in particular) it is a fascinating and gripping and in some ways horrifying read for anyone bewildered and enraged by the financial crisis.
Although I suspect it is not THE novel of the crisis - and perhaps that novel, like the bankers themselves, will never be nailed in the way it should - the characters are real and rounded, and the action feels sinkingly plausible. I always enjoy Cartwright's ear for dialogue and his piercing humour. His view of a certain class of parasitic woman is probably depressingly realistic. He says in the acknowledgements at the end that he spoke, for research ourposes, to people who are best left unidentified. He is right not to name them. There are many who would like to go and kill them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the read, 18 April 2014
It gave a good insight into how big business operates. The characters vere very believable and the story was good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars book, 25 Jan 2014
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Ms. S. J. Rolph (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Other People's Money (Paperback)
I was pleased with all aspects of this purchase: the product arrived promptly and was in excellent condition and met my expectations.
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Other People's Money
Other People's Money by Justin Cartwright (Hardcover - 7 Mar 2011)
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