Starfishing, By Nicola Monaghan

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The Independent Culture

The breathless pace of this tale of City greed and corruption doesn't allow for many pauses or, alas, much depth. Her brittle protagonist, Francesca Cavanagh, takes a job as a newbie City trader, and Nicola Monaghan whizzes us through her nightly Chardonnay consumption and developing coke habit, and treats her doomed romantic involvement with her married, smooth-talking trader boss similarly speedily.

With the current financial crisis dominating newspaper pages, the cut and thrust of this world already feels out of date. Admittedly the novel is set in 1997, but it's fatally unable to shock us with anything we didn't already know. City traders snort coke! The City's a macho place to work, don't you know! Bosses who flirt with girls turn out to be two-timing rats! Perhaps the very, very last page is a surprise, but Francesca's experiences up to that point just didn't capture or intrigue me, and I began to suspect that Monaghan keeps the pace as speedy as it is so that you don't notice the poor quality of her writing. There is an authenticity to her description of the milieu she's writing about, but it rarely succeeds beyond cliché.

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