When Erin Duffy’s debut novel “Bond Girl” (William Morrow) was published last winter, it got high marks from the Entertainment Weekly reviewer and a strong blurb from one of my favorite novelists, Adriana Trigiani.
A romantic comedy set on Wall Street around the time of the 2008 crash — written by an insider — sounded irresistible, so when the paperback came out recently I grabbed it.
Beyond the great title, and a few details of life on “the Street,” however, I found the book to be terribly disappointing.
“Bond Girl” is never boring, but the heroine Alex Garrett is hard to care about because her workplace is presented so unappetizingly and the “romantic” subplot makes Alex look stupid.
One of the quotes from a positive review of “Bond Girl” on the paperback edition cites the unusual setting for a “chick lit” novel and the fact that all of the titles in this genre need not be about the publishing industry and other “glamor” professions.
I agree that many of the Manhattan career women books work the same narrow turf, but you can’t discount the “aspirational” qualities in this genre. A lot of young women (and men) read these stories and dream about becoming a writer or an editor or a TV producer the same way that lots of baby boomer moviegoers in the 1970s wished they would one day live in the sophisticated worlds of “Manhattan” or “An Unmarried Woman.”
An almost deal-breaking problem I had with “Bond Girl” is that Alex’s job in a brokerage firm sounds horrendous and as one of the lone women on the bond-trading floor she is the object of unrelenting sexism that makes her seem to be crazy to want to work with (and for) these neanderthals (most of whom call her “Girlie”).
I kept waiting for Alex to get to a better place at Cromwell Pierce — to justify all of the crap she has to put up with from the men — but it never happens. The narrative stalls out and our heroine starts to look like a dope who has joined a fraternity where her hazing will never end.
(The illustration that Jimmy Geigerich did for a Bloomberg Business review of a non-fiction book about women battling men on Wall Street — below — might have been a more accurate piece of art for the dustjacket than the standard shoe fetish shot.)
The work place unpleasantness is made even worse by the pitiful relationship Alex forms with handsome co-worker Will. Yes, she is right to be cautious and secretive about an office sexual affair, but when Will refuses to see her on weekends and Alex doesn’t question him about this, she looks willfully idiotic.
They’re going out on dates after work and having sex — for the better part of a year — and she doesn’t confront Will about never seeing her on a Saturday night or returning any weekend phone calls.
When the true nature of Will’s relationship with Alex is revealed — late in the novel — I can’t believe any reader will share her shock.
“Bond Girl” is a real puzzler — a beach book that I would have been tempted to toss in the ocean if I had read it at the shore.