Monday, January 23, 2012

Bond Girl, by Erin Duffy

In this stellar debut novel, Erin Duffy proves that "write what you know" is great advice indeed. Ms. Duffy, who spent years in the financial industry, spins the story of UVA alum Alex Garrett who, fresh from graduation, begins work at the Wall Street trading firm Cromwell, Pierce. Alex has known all her life that the financial industry is where she wants to make her mark. In a brilliant and almost too precocious light bulb moment at age eight, after visits to her father's place of work, Alex realizes that everything she's told not to do and everything she is undervalued for as a child, is actually permissible and admired on a trading floor.

At twenty-two, Alex arrives at Cromwell and meets her boss "Chick" Ciccone, and her assorted group of co-workers, all male, all older and all anxious to show the new "girlie" where she belongs on the office totem pole. What Alex does is turn her role as resident gopher into a chance to prove to herself and to them that she belongs, and over time she does just that. Some of the mistakes she makes on her way up her learning curve are quite hysterical, and her boss's punishments don't quite fit the "crimes" but we laugh at them anyway. Alex is faced with some challenges in the form of a duplicitous office love interest, a client who shows a bit too much enthusiasm for Alex's spare time, and the financial crisis of 2008. In true chic lit fashion, she overcomes it all, and comes out of it way ahead of the game.

For a debut novel, Ms. Duffy does an excellent job in serving up a fast-paced, absorbing page turner. Alex's embarrassment, trials and triumphs are all experienced first and center by the reader and by the end of the novel, we're ready to cheer her on to the next great thing she undertakes. It's an engaging story, very well-written, although the subject matter once again reminds me why I didn't study finance in graduate school. While it's a complicated subject to master, it's a heck of a lot of fun to read about. Highly recommend, and out on February 1, 2012. Published by William Morrow.