Arden A. (Longboat Key, FL)
Full disclosure: I have never worked on Wall Street nor in the investment industry. But I am aware that the best and the brightest are hired out of the top schools for large salaries, and then asked to devote themselves night and day to the firm.
Laura Hemphill's first novel leads us through the day to day trials and tribulations at one of those New York investment firms through first person accounts by three employees: Sophie, the naïve 22 year old new hire, Vasu, her boss, and Ethan, her boss's boss. I thought the characters were well developed, and the story line mostly feasible. It's a ruthless business, and ruthlessness contributed to the eventual demise of the the fictional firm. Sophie's naivete does not last long in this world she has chosen. The college boyfriend falls by the wayside, but the relationship was not meant to be in the new reality of Sophie's life. And the ending proves that Sophie learned her lessons well. Great book, good read.
Jane C. (Brighton, MI)
Although my career path is very different from Sophie's, I remember long days and nights. I don't think I would have been able to keep up her hours though. As a new graduate moving to New York and a lucrative job would have been very exciting.
This book really gave a great insight into the corporate and banking system. It was well written and I liked the way the book moved between characters and talked about them at the same time. The character study was well done and there were four very strong characters and several minor ones.
I really enjoyed the book and the look into a failing system and the reasons for that failure in the financial crisis.
Elizabeth G. (Cincinnati, OH)
Buying in Clueless
I have been interested in finance and economics all of my life and was very excited to read this novel (and was a Literature major). Unfortunately it was horrible. There is one protagonist, but the story is told from the POV of a few main characters. The characters are two-dimensional at best. The obnoxious stereotype of one immigrant is particularly disgusting. The protagonist's fetish would be impossible in any office. Anyone would know this right away. I understand it's a novel, but are we to suspend disbelief completely? As far as financial details: Excel spreadsheets, a model, and due diligence. Wow! Way too hard to believe she is so naive after four years at Yale (did she not have any internships?), so insecure, and so clueless. No friends from college except the boyfriend? I get she's from the "small town," but it's the 21st Century! It's not cute or sweet or heartwarming that she's so lost. It's insane. Route 71? I live in Cincinnati. It's Interstate 71--hope your editor gets to that; and they wouldn't be driving out of downtown to go to lunch. As for all the tangential relationships, they add nothing. I don't think writing is this author's passion or talent. Definitely change the genre to fantasy or Young Adult. It reads more like a soap opera or a slight thriller with some sensationalism. And really mostly, I was just insulted. And the ending is icing on that cake--I wanted to throw it out the window. Really? There? Really, that is hilarious. So maybe it's a comedy.
Elizabeth K. (Dallas, TX)
A very scary portrait of the banking industry
No, it's not a thriller or a horror novel, but it's scary, nevertheless. The writing is excellent, I like Sophie, but I'm not sure I agree with reviewers who praise her for outfoxing the men around her. Is this what banking is about? Fooling and manipulating people, including co-workers, clients, and the public? This book is quite thought-provoking and I do recommend reading it. You may, like me, wonder if Sophie's success is worth the sacrifices she makes, and what the long-term consequences of staying in the field will be. My favorite character was Vasu, and I'd love to read a sequel with Vasu as the main character.
Carolyn R. (Eugene, OR)
As a novice in the world of investment banking and making "the deal" I found this book to be very informative and straightforward. If the author wished to teach the reader about her career, then Ms. Hemphill was very successful...
On a more personal note I found myself cheering Sophie on to succeed in the chauvinistic world in which she found herself, under appreciated and largely ignored. But she did soldier on at great personal service. She learned how to play the game, all the back stabbing that goes with the territory and so much more. She left wise beyond her years, often acting more mature than her superiors.
I also liked the ambiguous ending. A good Book Club discussion, perhaps?!?
Sandy P. (Gainesville, FL)
Very promising new author
Overall this was a very well written and enjoyable book. I liked it because I'm fascinated with the volatility of the market. I was impressed with the plot development from Sophie's naïveté when she first arrives in NYC to her becoming a successful realist and taking charge of her own life and future. I liked her mentor's insightful comment of "don't go all Pollyanna on me". I'm not sure why she thought a high profile job of analyst wouldn't make huge demands on her time and, ultimately, cost her relationship with Will. The other thing that bothered me (and seemed out of place) was why a new hire would risk everything by rifling through co-workers' desk drawers (her boss included). It came across to me as "oh, it's after hours, I think I'll go see what I can find in Ethan and Vasu's desk drawer". It seemed like a more plausible way of snooping could have been developed, perhaps with an employee on the 'inside' feeding her the information she wanted. Every company has its share of 'loose lips' to be exploited.
The ending built to a surprising climax and yet managed to tie up the loose ends. Sophie seemed torn when it came to her loyalty between with Hutch or Ethan. Good to see that in the end she managed to survive the chaos and gain leverage and an upper hand on Ethan and ultimately get what she wanted. Sophie's naiveté seemed to evaporate a bit and be replaced with a healthy dose of reality and skepticism.
Looking at the author's background I always commend people for writing what they know about first hand, and Ms. Hemphill definitely succeeded. I'll look for her next work.
Angela L. (Gypsum, CO)
You Have to Buy in Before You Can Sell Out
"You have to buy in before you can sell out" is a quote from Sophie, the protagonist of Buying In, who has just begun her career as an analyst in a Wall Street investment bank. It's an attempt to explain her devotion an often unrewarding, life-consuming job. Sadly, the reader has a much harder time buying in to Sophie's story: how did she get this job and why should we care whether she keeps it?
As a former woman in banking, I really wanted to like this book. And being set in the months leading up to the financial crash of 2008 gives others a glimpse into the failure of a system that shook lives globally. I would have loved to see the setting developed more fully. The author's prose is clear and often sparse, which sometimes left me feeling as if I was reading only the outline of the story.
I did enjoy how the book presented a diverse cross-section of characters in addition to Sophie. Overall, an average read.