This exhilaratingly lowbrow first novel concentrates on money and lust or, to put it more bluntly, sex and the City. Its young heroine or chief victim — or is she actually the villain? — has already joined an investment bank and had her first one-night stand a few minutes before this savage saga begins.
Melanie is in her early twenties: a beautiful, sexy, grumpy, materialistic, high-octane whizz-kid who hated Christmas Day even as a child. As we soon learn, she’s far keener on sex than romance and makes no secret of her addiction to alcohol. But that’s only half the picture. She’s also an adrenalin-rich workaholic with a bafflingly instinctive grasp of financial markets, corporate events, spreadsheets, hedge funds, networking initiatives and even stock- market crashes. In a matter of months, she has risen through the ranks, become a vice-president of her bank, built up a fan club — and been branded ‘a fucking idiot’ by one of her bosses.
As this caffeine- and nicotine-spattered horror story gathers momentum, we meet any number of fossils, bitches, shits, sluts and scumbags — their words, not mine — and at least one chortling banker who looks as though he’s come straight out of a Brooks Brothers catalogue. We soon discover that Melanie’s new rapist lover is already married and hear a lot more about her ecstasy in bed and her multiple hangovers. At a rough guess, I’d say that a million bottles of wine or champagne are opened in the course of this story, a lot of them at lunchtime. This last factor may account for Melanie’s failure to stay away from men at work.
This increasingly multi-dimensional and dialogue-rich book not only incorporates vibrating mobiles, sackings and financial crises — ‘the market’s nuts right now,’ mutters another lover boss — but also includes two or three upbeat references to Pret and a passing plug for St Paul’s Cathedral, hovering serenely over the pulsating dirt tracks of the City.