Archive for February, 2013

‘This Bleeding City’ by Alex Preston: a bad investment for Berwick readers?

Amazon describes our February book about City Traders as follows:
‘Charlie Wales is a young man who wants everything. Fresh from University, he’s seduced by the excitement of a new life in London and all that it promises. There’s Vero, the beautiful French girl who might finally fall for him. There’s the lure of art, but also the promise of fast money in the City. And his friends, who are spiralling into a world of non-stop parties and unchecked greed. But as the choices begin to tear him apart, there’s also the danger that all the things he desires are on the brink of crashing around him …
This debut novel, written by a 30-year-old trader, does not merely pick over the carcass of the financial markets in the wake of the recent crash. It is also a heartbreaking love story, a withering study of the years of excess, and a timely reminder of how good people end up doing terrible things.’

It seems that February is a busy month; although we had all read the book, the majority of us (me included) could not make it to this month’s book group meeting. Luckily Martin did, and kindly wrote a report of the discussion for our blog.
‘It was a very select foursome who convened at the Barrels on Tuesday. I expected us all to lambast This Bleeding City and go home but Jill started off by saying she quite liked it and Rose concurred, particularly the parts which explained the shenanigans city traders get up to and why we are all now so poor. Even Glynis thought the descriptions of the workings of the city were the best part. Alas I was so dispirited by the start of the book I never got that far. We all agreed that the writing was poor and the characters pointless and inexplicable with Glynis finding his metaphors especially annoying considering the man was a literature graduate.
Glynis suspected a huge misogynistic streak in the author after his depiction of the lone woman worker who was the only one with any sense.
Martin expressed some dissatisfaction with the quality of the books we have chosen to read. This one was by far the worst. To compensate the ladies suggested some alternative reading:-
The Inspector Fox novels of Ian Rankin
22-11-63 by Steven King, and
Heartburn by Nora Ephram’

Barbara could not attend the meeting but sent her thoughts about the book.
‘What a shockingly poor piece of writing it was. The only thing I can say in its favour was that given the writer’s background, the setting and info about the financial world are probably accurate. But it is impossible either to believe in, or care about, the principal characters. There also seemed little point to the novel, as it was neither a good story nor did it ‘say’ anything interesting or original. Although I sort of made it to the end, I skimmed it so fast that I don’t feel able to make any further comments.’

As for me, I have to agree with everyone else: I really disliked this novel! Charlie, Vero, Henry et al, irritated me so much; beautiful, privileged posers the lot of them – self-aggrandising, with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and a very poor grasp of reality (I suppose it could be argued that this was the point, but I suspect that the author was writing without any sense of irony or distance from his characters). Alex Preston is always romanticising them (for example the first meeting between Charlie and Vero when the barman is stunned by Vero’s beauty and says to Charlie, ‘You have to go after her, the beer’s on me’). I found them unsympathetic, selfish and crass.
And the dialogue is often awful!
‘Do you… Do you still love her Charlie?’
I looked across at him, sighed out a stream of smoke.
‘Of course I do. I think I might always love her.’
Brief Encounter anyone? Or maybe Eastenders (they use one another’s names all the time in conversation)? In places the dialogue is so over-expositional it could be used in a creative writing class on how NOT to write dialogue. I really don’t think people voice their innermost thoughts and feelings so exactly and openly, and analyse themselves all the while like this lot do. I mean, who actually talks like Charlie and Henry on p14-15?
‘You’re a strange chap, Charlie, so worried about the future. I try not to think about the future at all. I’m.. to be honest, Charlie, I’m absolutely terrified of growing old. There’s the problem with having a gilded childhood. You never want to leave it. I think that’s maybe why I take photographs. They give me the sense that I can pause time. I’m only twenty three and already so much seems to have passed..’
I fell asleep with him still talking.’
I’m not surprised.
The only effective sections for me were those which followed Charlie as he moved up through the ranks in the City firm, Silverbirch, with very little knowledge or talent, fuelled by drugs and testosterone, while Madison (the only voice of reason) is derided, passed over for promotion and generally treated in an unforgivably sexist manner. Yannis, Christos etcetera are a chilling group, gambling with huge sums of money as though they are playing for smarties or matchsticks.
‘We were superheroes of the Market. We were invincible.’
However, even more chilling is the new, grey City man Charlie becomes at the end of the novel, with no personal effects or connections to anchor him to the real world.
I didn’t like the writing style either. I found it overwritten, with a tendency to overuse metaphor and simile, which occasionally worked (scorn perched on her nose like pince-nez) but more often didn’t (his eyes were blue and darting, like fish in a rock pool).

Maybe next month’s book, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce, will receive a better reception…

Ann Coburn


About the book group

The Berwick Book Group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the First Class Passenger Lounge on the platform of Berwick Train Station at 6.30pm.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit

February 2013
« Jan   Apr »