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OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY by Justin Cartwright Kirkus Star


by Justin Cartwright

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60819-273-1
Publisher: Bloomsbury

From South African/British novelist Cartwright (To Heaven by Water, 2009, etc.), a winner of the Whitbread Award and Hawthornden Prize and shortlisted for the Booker Prize, a tale half comic and half cautionary—and all compelling—about the financial crisis.

Tubal and Co. is a small, ancient private bank in London, and its longtime chief, Sir Harry Trevelyan-Tubal, has drafted his younger son Julian into the business and then retired to Antibes, where he's been overtaken by senility. Meanwhile, Julian has fallen for the siren song of "risk-free" derivatives, and the bank's hedge fund is awash in toxic assets—now toxic liabilities. Julian pumps into the bank as much family money as he can, and some backers' capital as well, to prop up the balance sheet while he courts a buyer, a blunt-talking, rough-edged Chicagoan named Cy (and a rare dip for Cartwright into cliché). Meanwhile, Artair MacCleod, a septuagenarian actor-manager who's fallen far, from Shakespeare in London to living in a Cornish boathouse and directing primary-school productions of The Wind in the Willows, finds himself suddenly cut off from his usual means of support. He was married to Sir Harry's now-wife, Fleur, once an aspiring actress, and after Sir Harry swept her away, he arranged to pay reparations in the form of a modest annual "arts grant" to Artair. The wonderfully gusty, cranky, self-dramatizing Artair, no shrinking violet, lets a young Cornish newspaper blogger know about his plight, and by a series of small, odd, but persuasively detailed steps, Artair's missing grant for provincial children's theater comes to threaten the centuries-old bank's sale, even its existence.

Witty, thoughtful, briskly paced and entertaining—a terrific novel about excess, hubris, class and the age-old (usually one-sided) tussle between art and commerce.