By Gary Shteyngart
Hamish Hamilton (£16.99)
In novels, financiers are usually villains or anti-heroes. Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart is no exception. With his hedge fund collapsing, Barry Cohen decides to walk out on his pregnant wife and disabled child and go on a bus trip around America to find a former girlfriend. Meanwhile, his wife Seema deals with her abandonment by having an affair with a neighbour, a novelist who has managed to carve out a lucrative niche giving talks about his books, even though no-one has actually read them.
Shteyngart has clearly done extensive research about the world of finance and it is easy to see which stories and people Cohen and his fund are based on. The author has managed to capture the absurdity of financiers and their big-money world. He also shows that while hedge funds are lucrative for their managers, they are often a let-down for investors.
There are several deft comic touches, from the tourists doing a ‘poverty tour’ of inner-city Baltimore to Cohen’s later attempts to write a novel about his experiences. The ending, which covers Barry’s life in the decade after the main events in 2016, feels rushed, with fortunes being made and spent within paragraphs.
Similarly, the sections focusing on Barry’s wife and her affair are less gripping than the main part of the narrative. This isn’t quite up to the standard of classic satires such as The Bonfire of the Vanities but it is an enjoyable read.