48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
TOO POSH TO FAIL,
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.