What’s it like to be a woman stock trader?
Geri Molloy -- the heroine of Aifric Campbell’s spiky novel “On the Floor” (Picador, $26) -- finds that the office shoeshine guy gets turned on by polishing her stilettos.
When she has to jet off to Asia on the spur of the moment, there’s a smitten quant who’s more than happy to watch her dog.
And she has a direct pipeline to the biggest hedge-fund manager in Hong Kong, who gets a kick from making her read Kant and eat delicacies like chicken hearts on sticks and deer tendon.
Campbell worked for 13 years at Morgan Stanley in London, eventually running the international convertible-bond sales desk, then got a Ph.D. in creative writing. She knows the City and she writes like a demon. “On the Floor” could have been a page-turning big-money bodice ripper, but it’s better than that -- an illuminating look at one woman as she tries to figure out what’s really important.
Here are two more compelling novels to throw in your beach bag this summer:
Eric Muller, the computer-geek hero of Gabriel Roth’s “The Unknowns” (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, $25), is trying to figure out women. When he was in high school, he made like Harriet the Spy and kept a notebook of observations about every girl in his class -- except the ones he wouldn’t sleep with even if it meant lifelong virginity. You know that didn’t end well.
Now in his early 20s, he’s a Silicon Valley millionaire with time on his hands after selling his dot-com to a big company, and he’s finally figured out how to approach women. His tactics sound a bit nuts but they work: “Asking a Question That Refers to Something I Learned About Her Earlier; Suggesting We Continue the Conversation Sitting Down.”
Then Eric falls for Maya, whose look says “I see through you entirely and find you benign but a bit ridiculous.” Or is he over-analyzing a simple smile? It’s a kick getting inside the head of this highly observant, self-conscious -- and funny -- narrator.
In “Crazy Rich Asians” (Doubleday, $25.95), Kevin Kwan makes his bid to be a Judith Krantz for the 21st century -- he’s written a sex-and-shopping novel that’s so over-the-top it’s all shopping, no sex. There’s a 2,000-square-foot wardrobe described so lovingly that it’s practically a character:
“It’s all climate controlled,” its owner says. “The closets on this end are maintained at 55 degrees specifically for my Italian cashmere, houndstooth and fur. But the shoe-display cabinets are kept at 70 degrees, which is optimal for leather, and the humidity is regulated to a constant 35 percent, so my Berlutis and Corthays never break a sweat. You gotta treat those babies right.”
The plot kicks off when New York University professor Nick Young takes his girlfriend, Rachel Chu, home to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding -- without warning her that his family is staggeringly rich and pedigreed. Rachel encounters ancient snobberies and arcane rules of etiquette, all while trying to figure out what to wear to more social events than she could have imagined.
The fun comes from watching Kwan pile on the absurdities -- there are dogs named Astor, Trump and Vanderbilt; a grandmother attended by two lady’s maids given to her as a gift by the King of Thailand; and a $784,000 pair of earrings that look like something Pocahontas would have worn.
(Laurie Muchnick is an editor for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Laurie Muchnick in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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