Kate Jennings's first novel, Snake
, was praised for combining "dry comedy" and "genuine heartbreak"; now she has used the same sweet-and-sour recipe in her second book, Moral Hazard
--but with even more raw ingredients. The heroine is thirtysomething Cath, a smiling, punning, do-gooding bien pensant
who has somehow ended up in the vicious purlieus of Wall Street, dealing billions with the great white sharks of high finance. This unfeasibly high-powered employ contrasts sharply with Cath's home life. She's married to a man 25 years her senior: "sweet Bailey, dearest Bailey... optimistic where I was pessimistic, enthusiastic where I was distrustful." This marriage is not perfect: as Cath mordantly observes, "marriage is awful in its nearness. Yoked together, bound, in a three-legged race with no finishing line." Nevertheless Cath and Bailey, in their May/December way, have found a kind of happiness. Then, horribly, Bailey is diagnosed with Alzheimer's....
Three chapters in we learn this terrible truth, and the rest of the book concerns Cath's desperate, affecting, sardonic, resolute ways and means of dealing with Bailey's rollercoaster ride to the inevitable--or even worse. It's not an easy journey; this is not the easiest of books. What largely rescues the whole from being a whiny or self-pitying lament is the prose: humorous, energetic, sharp, urbane, and vivid. --Sean Thomas, Amazon.co.uk
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From Publishers Weekly
This short, self-assured novel by Australian-born Jennings (Snake) brilliantly depicts the complicated life of a working woman on Wall Street during the dot-com boom. Cath, a freelance writer in her 40s, is married to Bailey, who's 25 years her senior. When he develops Alzheimer's, she takes a speech-writing job at an investment bank to pay for his expensive medical care. Wry but realistic, and realizing her position in a rigid boys' club hierarchy, she suppresses her liberal sensibility and defers to the chauvinists who dominate the firm, even cozying up to Horace, the company's most Machiavellian executive. Cath's Virgil through this hell is Mike, a cynical but gabby risk manager whose gossip and instruction illuminate the high-stakes office politics and dismal science of Wall Street. As Bailey deteriorates, in scene after heartbreaking scene, Cath finds unexpected succor "in the belly of the beast." Jennings, herself a former Wall Street speechwriter, makes it clear that the mad math of high finance and the delusions of Alzheimer's resemble one another: it's a metaphor she exploits with dramatic consequences in this piercing novel, gleaming with facets of hard-won knowledge, polished by experience and a keen intelligence. An ideal subway read for smart working men and women, it masterfully documents the culture of economic and corporate arrogance, while never losing sight of the human cost of such hubris. National advertising; 6-city author tour.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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