Dear Money, my new novel, has, as the title suggests, a lot to do with money. I became interested in the topic as extreme wealth rose all around me in the heady days of mortgage-backed securities. Money is a glorious and dirty topic and, it seems, everyone has something to say about it. While writing the novel I looked to the Victorians for fun and inspiration, among others. They were obsessed with money and used it as a lens through which to see the hypocrisy and foolishness of their society. I tell my students that a writer writes and a writer reads. These are the novels I was reading, all brilliant on money.
The Bronte Sisters — to borrow from my sister, Jenny: “The Bronte sisters tackle the problem of money, what it does to you if you have it, what it does to you if you don’t.”
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. I especially love the aging, matronly novelist, struggling with her desire for success and her income. Her desperation.
The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Financier by Theodore Dreiser
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. (When I asked the bond trader who helped teach me about his world to recommend books, the first was Bonfire. The others were Market Wizards: Interviews With Top Traders and Frank J. Fabrozzi’s The Handbook of Mortgage-Backed Securities — heavy lifting, definitely not a novel.)
In my reading and thinking, I was most interested in the female characters of Lily Bart, Undine Spragg, Scarlett O’Hara (though I didn’t re-read Gone With The Wind), Becky Sharp. I often wondered who those women would be today. How would they have acted had they found themselves in the 21st Century?
Novels about money that I haven’t yet read but want to read:
New Grub Street by George Gissing which Jenny loved. She says, “It is entirely about the terrible compromises a writer must make for the love of money.”
Money by Martin Amis
And now there are two new novels, published right now, for my list:
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett
Please add to the list.