Monday, 12 March 2012

Orange 2012: On the floor (Aifric Campbell)

I picked up On the floor with a little trepidation; whilst I was keen to read a book about a woman my age who worked at an investment bank in London, a world of which I know very little (although I have just finished reading a fascinating memoir which I half wrote a blog post about called City-Girl by Suzana S about a girl who worked her way up from internship to full trader, which gave me enough background to really pique my interest in this book), my Kindle-Sampling-Colleague had told me that she didn't really understand the industry terminology that she'd encountered in the sample chapter and that if she's to go any further she'll need me to explain it to her. Hmm...

The author, Aifric Campbell, spent 13 years working on the trading floor of Morgan Stanley (an eminent investment bank for non UK readers), and became their first female managing director, and this is her third novel. So one might anticipate this novel to open ones eyes to this world, and to some extent she does.

Set in 1991, Geri has worked as a trader for 5 years and achieved considerable success. She is now 28 and does business primarily with a hedge fund manager in Hong Kong. However, the success is wearing thin, and she is at the point of breakdown. She is unable to sleep, she drinks too much, she has been abandoned by her boyfriend, and she becomes involved in a hostile takeover that puts her career on the line. The book is about her personal struggle to work out what she is able to control and what is outside it.

The book is very fastpaced, in the way that I would imagine life in the city to be and certainly portrays the city as somewhere where it is difficult for women to be - which makes it an apt choice I think for the Orange Longlist. One bit that stands out in that respect is where Geri is in the bar with another banking friend and together they draw up a list of advice for "Wannabe Bankers" which includes the following:

"1. Don't even blink when someone says "cunt". Better still, say it yourself.
2. There is NEVER a good reason to cry in the office
3.Always remember that two women standing together on the trading floor can only be gossiping; therefore treat all female colleagues with total contempt.
4. Learn how to drink copiously. Learn the point at which you are likely to keel over or shag someone you shouldn't"

...and so on.

I think overall the problem for me with this novel was that it was written by someone with so much experience of the trading world which made it difficult for the outsider to get a grip on. I wonder if it'd been written by someone who had only researched into life as a trader, it might have been written a little bit more sympathetically with the ignorant reader in mind?


  1. This one doesn't appeal at all (about a third of the list doesn't) but I LOVE that list of advice for wannabe bankers!

  2. Kindle sampling colleague here :) I returned to the fray armed with a dictionary &, whilst I can appreciate the artistry of someone who can write poetically about "variable bonds" (whatever they may be, despite the dictionary I still remain in a state of blissful ignorance), I simply find it impossible to follow the plot because I don't understand what anybody is talking about. As an example, early in the book, Geri makes vast sums of money for her company because she persuades an investor (I think) to buy a load of stocks (I think) from a panicking colleague who has bought too many (I think) & the investor will only speak to her - why? I shall plough on for a wee while but am sinking rapidly in a sea of financial ignorance.


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