Book World: In ‘Bond Girl’ by Erin Duffy, a woman takes on high finance

January 31, 2012

It’s about time chick lit made a move to occupy Wall Street, a slice of Manhattan real estate chock-a-block with men, money and more money. In her firstnovel, “Bond Girl,” Georgetown grad Erin Duffy deftly raises that tent. But don’t expect to arm pump your way through a take-down of Wall Street greed. If anything, Duffy — herself a veteran of the Street — is sympathetic to entry-level financial employees, who’ve endured public outrage since their high-flying bosses trashed the American economy. “Bond Girl” is invested in the genre of supposedly glamorous workplaces that are actually little slices of hell. Sort of “The Devil Trades Government Bonds.”

The novel revolves around recent University of Virginia grad Alex Garrett, a child of suburban Connecticut privilege who has always longed to follow her father’s footsteps to the Street. And she does, landing a job at prestigious Cromwell Pierce, where she is assigned to the 40-person government bond desk on the fixed-income trading floor. Unfortunately, being the new kid on this team is less like joining a profession and more like joining a fraternity, hazing included. And if you’re a woman, well, just that much more scope for hazing opportunities.

Her boss’s welcome speech includes such gems as “You’re one of two women in my group, and if that dynamic is a problem for you, then take the train to Midtown and see if the broads at Conde Nast have a job for you.” He also lets her know, “If you wear a tight skirt and someone smacks your [expletive], don’t come running to me or to HR about it.” Remarkably, this guy ends up being a sympathetic character, as Duffy manages to locate some humanity under his misogynistic machismo. But the whole scene makes Capitol Hill’s brand of golf-club clubbiness look like a Daisy troop meeting.

While you may pick up some financial literacy along the way — you don’t often find the Federal Open Market Committee referred to in a book with a red-soled stiletto on its cover — you’re more likely to learn workplace details: Trading floors are kept cold to balance all the computer-generated heat; Wall Street’s gears are greased by binge drinking and junk food (“You wouldn’t think that guys who earned seven-figure salaries would care so much about free doughnuts . . . but they do”); and chest bumps are still in. In the closing pages, Alex’s boss says, “Please don’t tell me you’re going to turn into one of those bitter [expletives] who leaves the Street and then write a book or something. I hate those women.” He may hate them, but, bitter or not, you’ll be glad Duffy did.

Deane is a writer who lives in Silver Spring.


‘Bond Girl: A Novel’ by Erin Duffy (Morrow. 293 pp. $24.99). (William Morrow)

BOND GIRL

Erin Duffy

Morrow. 293 pp. $24.99

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