cover image On the Floor

On the Floor

Aifric Campbell. Picador, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-02839-6

This 2012 Orange Prize nominee from Campbell (Loss Adjustor), a former managing director at Morgan Stanley, punctures the seamy darkness of banking with acute observations of being “the skirt amongst men.” A gift for math helped Geri Molloy trade her meager Irish beginnings for a top trader post in the early ’90s at British investment banking firm Steiner, where she mistrusts but uses her male coworkers and boss. Beholden to aggressive client Felix Mann, Geri goes to Hong Kong and suffers through local delicacies like turtle blood in order to secure his business. For her boss, she gathers intelligence on one of Felix’s more volatile investments. In the lead-up to the Iraq War, as Geri’s office braces for record profits, she loses her taste for the big ticket. The excesses enjoyed by Steiner’s traders mask a desperate need for success that will resonate with readers, and the office’s brutal gender politics—which leads her to compose a cutting “Rule Book for Wannabe Female Bankers”—predominates over Geri’s more sentimental moments, such as when she lies in bed with a bottle of vodka instead of the boyfriend who thrived after leaving her. Though an open-ended resolution may frustrate some, Geri’s self-aware reenactment of Wall Street (a film the traders see as a “reconfirmation that greed is good and lunch is for wimps”) is a heart-pounding ride. Agent: Jennifer Carlson, Dunow, Lerner & Carlson. (Jun. 25)