Debut novelist Hemphill successfully portrays life working at a big bank.
It’s October 2007, months before the subprime lending crisis, and Sophie Landgraf is a fresh-out-of-college Wall Street analyst working on her first big deal. Overtired, overcaffeinated and overworked, Sophie is still adjusting to the dog-eat-dog world of banking. Vainly, and in typical The Devil Wears Prada mode, she attempts to balance work and home life, especially her relationship with Will, the shaggy-haired college boyfriend, who helped her grieve when her mother died in an auto accident. Growing up poor and lacking financial support are Sophie’s motivations for working in the financial sector. But she’s also smart, good with numbers and actually likes her job; it’s with mixed feelings that readers will watch her strive toward success. The other people on Sophie’s account are Vasu, the vice president who never sees his wife and child; Ethan, the sharklike head of their group; and Jake Hutchinson, a mostly wholesome CEO client. None are particularly nuanced, but all are more sympathetic than one might expect, and by telling parts of the story from each of their points of view, Hemphill goes deep into the murky moral waters in which they all swim. Other bleak themes, precisely brought to life, are the excessive dedication that banking expects of its employees, institutional sexism and the impossibility of friendship in business. The deal itself is arguably the real protagonist and the reason readers will eagerly turn pages. Hemphill pulls off the neat trick of making the complex financial transaction clear to lay readers without dumbing down her characters.
A solid, suspenseful Wall Street tale.