Other People's Money
Justin Cartwright
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Buy *Other People's Money* by Justin Cartwright online

Other People's Money
Justin Cartwright
Bloomsbury USA
272 pages
April 2011
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Cartwright’s candor is on considerable display in this stunning expose of England’s financial classes. Surrounded by the debris of the financial crash, money is scattered to the wind in a new world defined by the unexpected and the uncharted. In this story, great wealth and privilege have little choice but to settle themselves into new and unfamiliar shapes and forms.

As Other People's Money opens, Sir Harry Trevelyan-Tubal, owner of the 340-year-old Tubal and Co. bank, has suffered a devastating stroke. Sitting on the sun deck of his Antibes home, Sir Harry stares out at the calm blue waters of the Mediterranean, his mind gauging and sifting. He still can’t believe that his life’s work has gone “tits up” under the chaos of sub-primes and collateralized debt, his beloved bank stuck with utterly useless and finely diced mortgages.

Harry is watched over by Estelle, his personal secretary, who finds his deterioration deeply disturbing. Harry’s young wife, Fleur - a former theatrical actress - is living back in London at the Mulgrave House Estate, having clandestine liaisons with her personal trainer, Morne, a professional rugby player from South Africa. Harboring no guilt, Fleur readily admits that she’s in love with Morne’s body, so “tall and muscular and planed.”

Julian, Harry’s brittle, unconfident son, is left to shoulder the burdens of the loss, becoming more and more desperate in this new regime. Plagued with shocking migraines, Julian must demonstrate that he is indeed in touch with the new financial realities now that the bank is “not so much a family bank as a fading bank.” In the middle of all this chaos, Harry finds himself signing over power of attorney to Julian, the frail man no longer comprehending the full extent of the nightmare.

In an effort to balance the books, the bank’s philanthropic trusts can no longer support the likes of Fleur’s ex-husband, playwright Artair MacCleod, living in Cornwall as he attempts to write his masterwork about a forgotten Irish novelist. Until now, the Tubal family trust has been able to support Artair's lifestyle. With the money gone, Artair finds himself broke. His accompanying animus threatens to derail generations of Tubal family pride and carefully manufactured history.

In his terrific combination of introspection, dry wit and comedy, Cartwright does a fine job of imbuing sympathy for this “high-altitude” financial class where money dominates every aspect of their lives. The ordinary rules no longer apply when a young, energetic Cornish journalist and her boss embark on a quest to discover the true motivation behind Julian Tubal’s double-dealings and his attempts to sell the bank without a hint of scandal. The journey is harrowing to watch, the author lovingly portraying Cornwall’s working classes with the same compassion as the privileged Tubals and their associates who sliced and diced derivatives while recklessly lending out money.

Lives spin out of control and Julian, amidst all this “hellish chaos,” faces some difficult and pivotal choices. Shrouded in sardonic, intelligent humor and told with great passion and purpose, the novel’s issues are as strong and pertinent as ever, the story a thrilling insight into the financial crash and how its collateral damage created havoc in so many lives.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2011

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