Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Darlings by Cristina Alger

Would you believe me if I told you that a novel about investment bankers under investigation by the SEC was the most compelling book I’ve read so far this year? It’s true, I promise!

In The Darlings by Cristina Alger, Paul Ross has recently accepted a position at a hedge fund owned by his father-in-law, Carter Darling. It is an uneasy time in the investment industry, but the Darlings are blissfully unaware of the scandal that will soon come to light. The book opens with an extravagant gala hosted by the Darlings, where they unknowingly enjoy their last moment as New York society royalty. They wake up to news that a close family friend and major player at their hedge fund has committed suicide. What follows is a suspenseful look into the reactions of a well-respected family as a Ponzi scheme is revealed. Should Paul be loyal to his wife’s family or protect himself and talk to the SEC?

The appeal of The Darlings is one part characterization and one part schadenfreude. Alger strikes a good balance in her characterizations of people who have been vilified in recent years. No one is inherently good or bad, and the reader will even come to sympathize with a few of the characters. That being said, it is satisfying to read about a holier-than-thou wife of an investment banker lamenting over his treatment as “a common criminal” as he is led away in handcuffs.

The Darlings is a novel that succeeds as a result of the author’s background. Alger is a former analyst with Goldman Sachs and was raised in New York society so you feel like you are getting a realistic peek into the inner workings of high society and Wall Street.

Check out Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves by Andrew Sorkin to get the scoop on the financial scandals that inspired this book.

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