Publication Information: Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 2013
Genre: Fiction Setting: NYC
Plot: Sophie Landgraf, a recent Yale grad, landed a coveted analyst position on Wall Street, but she is unprepared for the competitiveness of her (mostly male) coworkers, the long hours and ambiguity of her assignments, the unrealistic expectations and unceasing pressure, and the knowledge – shared by everyone at Sterling – that they are only one failed deal away from losing their jobs. The people Sophie should be able to rely on, her boyfriend, Will, and her father, back in western Massachusetts, are both very critical of her job and believe she has changed since selling out to capitalism. As her work becomes even more stressful and all-absorbing, Sophie has to figure out what is most important to her because it doesn’t appear she can Have It All.
What I liked: There are lots of books about young women starting jobs in the big city (whether it is New York, as here, or London or wherever) but most of them ignore the actual work allegedly being done and focus on the personalities. Hemphill writes vividly about a world she clearly knows well, and I couldn’t put this down. I have a much better understanding of what investment bankers do all day than I ever did before, and she did a great job showing how Sophie becomes consumed by her job and by the alpha personalities there. Although I have never worked in investment banking I have worked in jobs with hideous hours so I sympathized with Sophie’s predicament: no one on the outside ever understands what it is like.
Sophie is improbably unsophisticated despite having spent four years at Yale*, but it is satisfying for the reader when her cluelessness is an asset, such as when she sends one of her father’s weird sculptures to a client. This endears her to him although he sees right through Sterling’s Managing Director, and it saves her job.
* My Yale sister will appreciate the mention of dancing at Toad’s.
What I disliked (and a spoiler): None of the characters was very likeable, except Sophie’s hometown friend Kim. Sophie creeps around snooping in her coworkers’ desk drawers (occasionally stealing) and deserves to get caught. I understand her stress level but she rarely thought about anyone but herself. On the other hand, I thought her boyfriend was kind of a jerk not to be more sympathetic when she is nervous and exhausted. I was glad the author didn’t replace him but instead shows that Sophie has no time for a boyfriend and a job, and wants the job more. To me that was what made the book fiction rather than chick lit like The Devil Wears Prada and others of that ilk.
Source: I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours, and recommend it for those want fiction that is entertaining but less predictable than Lauren Weisberger and Sophie Kinsella. You can buy a copy through this link. Even better, I have a copy of the book to give away: please leave a message if you are interested and I will pick a winner on Thanksgiving. You can read other reviews from the Tour here:
Monday, November 4th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, November 5th: Entomology of a Bookworm
Wednesday, November 6th: Peppermint Ph.D.
Thursday, November 7th: BookChickDi
Friday, November 8th: Bibliotica