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Moral Hazard: A Novel Paperback – May 15 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: 4th Estate; Reprint edition (May 15 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007154623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007154623
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.5 x 1.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,396,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Cath takes a job as a speechwriter on Wall Street. She’s not there by choice: she’s there because she needs to earn money to try to look after her husband, Bailey, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. So, Cath’s world now encompasses two nightmares. She is working in the bizarre world of high finance where reality is a foreign country, and living in the sad world of reality where her husband Bailey becomes a foreigner. How can Cath survive? Both nightmares contain moral hazards for Cath: how can she be true to herself, and take the best care of Bailey? How can she negotiate the outcomes she can live with?

In fewer than two hundred pages, Ms Jennings covers the slippery moral ground of high finance, where the expected ends always justify the means, and the heartbreaking reality of living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s. What is right, and what is moral? What choices does Cath have? How can she survive?

I found this novel intensely thought provoking, and well worth reading. Not so much the high finance side: I have low expectations of morality there, and am highly cynical. But as I grow older, and more aware of the impact of Alzheimer’s I think more about the options available. If I was Cath, what would I do?

I understand that this novel is in part autobiographical: Ms Jennings did spend some time working as a speech writer on Wall Street, and her husband died as a consequence of complications of Alzheimer’s in 1999.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Paperback
Cath is a 40ish woman who was once a freelance writer who has been forced into becoming a speechwriter for big business in early 1990s New York. Her husband, who is 20 years older than her, has been stricken with Alzheimer's, and she is in dire need of money to cover the expenses of his care. Some of her connections get her a job with Niedecker Bereche, an investment bank. When she gets to her new job she thinks "I was in the belly of the beast:observe, listen, learn." You see, her problem is that she is a feminist liberal idealist, so she is out of her element in the cutthroat world of high finance. She soon finds that a lot of what goes on at her work are scams and schemes much like those that brought down Enron. She does manage to find an ally to stem the tide of corruption from infecting her. Mike, a coworker, is also aware of the dangers of capitalism run amok and plans to take down the company from the inside out. The problem is that after working there for a while, Cath has perhaps changed her mind about the evils she once perceived.
Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings is an excellent work. It was critical of big business behavior without sacrificing story or preaching. It also retains a human element in the scenes with Cath and her stricken husband as he gradually deteriorates into a man she no longer knows. The satire in it is also humorous. It explodes the myth that Wall Street bankers know what they are doing and reveals them as paranoid, helpless, and corrupt investors who blow with the wind of rumors. I think we have already seen in real life what happens when markets are left to regulate themselves. This book is a great short read.
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Format: Hardcover
Concise and clear-eyed, forthright and fearless all aptly describe the lucid prose of Australian writer Kate Jennings whose first novel, Snake, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She possesses a gift for taut imagery: "The house of illness is papered with euphemisms." Or, "...his promises exited his mind backward, like tottering geishas."
With "Moral Hazard" Ms. Jennings offers, if you will, a morality/mortality tale in which the madness of the world of high finance (appropriate considering Enron) and the delusional states of Alzheimer's disease stand cheek by jowl, emphasizing the similarities.

Cath, a freelance writer in her forties, is happily married to Bailey, a creative soul in his mid sixties. "He was always doing, always curious," she says. "He surrounded me with warmth." When he is diagnosed as being in the early stages of Alzheimer's it becomes quickly apparent that she cannot provide the care he will need on their current income.
Therefore she finds work at Niedecker on Wall Street although she is "an unlikely candidate for the job of executive speechwriter, to be putting words in the mouths of plutocrats deeply suspicious of metaphors and words of more than two syllables."
Cath's guide through the miasma of high finance and cutthroat office maneuvering is Mike, a caustic, voluble risk manager. The two became friends on the day of Nixon's funeral, which was declared a holiday on Wall Street. Mike's tutelage proves invaluable, as he advises her to stop bucking the firm lest she be broken. "Round off your sharp edges," he counsels, "Turn yourself into an anthropologist."
At home she faces the inevitability of Bailey's decline. Initially anti-psychotic medicine is prescribed.
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