Bond Girl by Erin Duffy
Published by William Morrow ISBN 978-0-06-206589-6
The cover of Erin Duffy's debut novel, Bond Girl, is striking and catches the eye right away. A black stiletto with a blood red sole placed on top of The Wall Street Journal newspaper. So if you thought by the title alone that this book was about a female spy, the cover sets you straight- it's about a woman working in the world of finance.
We meet Alex, a twenty-something who works in the bond department at Cromwell Pierce, "one of Wall Street's biggest powerhouses". She describes an overheard encounter in the elevator between two men trying to one-up each other in where they went to college, what college their sons' attend, which lacrosse position their sons' play, which golf course they played at this past weekend, and says that she works in "the giant sandbox from hell".
Duffy herself worked in the financial industry and this book is filled with anecdotes that you just know are true. On a slow day, one coworker takes a bet that he can eat one of everything in the vending machine before the end of the day. Alex is forced to keep track of everything he eats on a clipboard and keep every wrapper. That scene just rang with veracity, it made me wonder if the guy who did this has read this book.
Alex is a female in a mostly male environment, a hostile environment at times. The men that work at Cromwell are competitive, masters-of-the-universe type. Her boss, Chick, tells Alex that the job won't be easy but he will cut her no slack.
She doesn't get a desk, she has to sit on a folding chair while she shadows salesmen at their desks. Since she is the last hired, she has to do the scut work- making several trips up to the trading floor bringing boxes and boxes of pizza to rally the troops, running to Starbucks to get 33 cups of coffee, (each with specific instructions), and once as punishment, she had to go from lower Manhattan all the way up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to get hot sandwiches and a 50 pound wheel of parmesan cheese and get back before the sandwiches got cold. (Food is a big part of the reward system there.)
Working at Cromwell isn't for sissies, and Alex has to prove herself. She battles sexism, long hours, and a powerful, lecherous client who wants Alex to sleep with him or lose her job. She makes a few friends at work, and eventually becomes romantically involved with a good guy whose biggest fault is that he disappears on the weekends.
I don't know much about the bond trading world, and Duffy educates her readers while keeping them interested in her story. This is a fantastic debut, with terrific, real characters and snappy writing. Her characters aren't stock; her boss Chick at first seems cruel, but he grows on you once you get to know him, and Alex herself changes as she gains more confidence.
I raced through this book and thoroughly enjoyed my trip through the hectic, crazy finance world of Bond Girl. This book is ripe for a movie treatment, and I would look forward to seeing on screen soon. This is a terrific book to curl up with on cold, snowy day; once you start it, you will want to finish it in one sitting, rooting Alex on the whole way. It's one of the most enjoyable reads of this year.
rating 5 of 5 stars
For a look at a real life female trader, read Play Money: My Brief But Brilliant Career on Wall Street by Laura Pedersen.