1st Oct 2012
Trading Dreams by J L Morin
J.L. Morin’s third novel places a literary finger on the pulse of the economic recession; but her attempt to tackle some thorny feminist issues at the same time gives this book too many issues to juggle with at once.
When the central character in Trading Dreams, Jerry, is hired by her boss at the trading floor on Wall Street, he gains access to her diary after successfully guessing the password on her laptop.
From here, we are given two different perspectives about Jerry, as the chapters alternate between her first-hand perspective, and the perspective of her boss, Richard.
We divine that Jerry is on the run from the person that murdered her mother, and is dealing with the aftermath of her life being turned upside down by trying to find a new identity.
And so, to try and find this new identity, Jerry embarks on a high-flying career at the bank whilst sleeping with a trail of men (and women), before discarding them immediately afterwards.
This experiment of hunting men in order to gain the upper hand, rather than be hunted by them, is nothing new or novel, having already been tackled by Candace Bushnell a decade earlier.
Moreover, the hints of the desire for a more equal, and less misogynistic world for women, is not explored seriously, but rather, scattered as a passing comment, here and there.
For example, ‘It’s not fair what they do to women sometimes’ seems an lazy attempt at channelling feminism, while a barely-developed theory that a man invented Prozac as part of a decade-spanning scheme to repress women is even less convincing.
Momentarily, Jerry’s aim to find a sense of identity seems to be materialising. She talks about ‘solitude and self-reliance’. Later, Morin writes about Jerry’s drive to open her own restaurant: ‘The white paint ran through my fingers. Maintenance. Manu tenere, to hold in the hand. The white paint ran through my fingers and swirled in the sink. Now it was my place.’
She even says ‘I could feel my brain cells rearranging to fit into this new architecture’; the architecture being the solid basis for new beginnings. She would manage herself, rather than be controlled by corporate pigs. I started to get really excited.
But once again, the story loses momentum because Morin doesn’t give space to mull over her descriptions. She presents an idea that has the potential to be beautiful, but denies it the time and care it needs to unravel.
From here the story jumps onto a series of unrelated scenes. One involves Jerry buying a ring from Tiffany’s, a role reversal which struck me as a lacklustre attempt to reimagine Breakfast at Tiffany’s fifty years earlier.
Then there is a twist about her mother’s murderer, that, while not predictable, is treated so lightly that it doesn’t ring true, considering that all of Jerry’s destructive behaviour is as a direct result of that event. Meanwhile, the role of Richard’s perspective has tapered off so far as to become obsolete.
Had Morin stuck to a small number of topics, rather than the financial crisis, feminism, sex addiction and (tentatively) murder mystery all in one, she would have had a better chance of exploring these worthy but underdeveloped themes on a deeper level. And until she does, these issues remain untouched.
Trading Dreams is available now for Kindle for 77p, and free during a special 5-day promotion between October 10th and 14th.