Review: Gross Misconduct – Lucy Beresford, The Spectator

After 14 months working as an inter-dealer bond broker, posh totty Thompson was fired in February 2008 for gross misconduct. Her crime? Writing a warts-and-all article of the broking industry which was published in The Spectator. Enjoy- ment of this memoir (basically an extension of that original piece) will, I suspect, depend on either an underlying interest in the technicalities of Collateralised Debt Obligations, or an ability to stomach anecdotes about vomiting.

It’s a macho tale, choppily told, of lap-dancing clubs, benders at Nobu, prescription drugs, and c-bombing (it’s a See You Next Tuesday thing). Unsurprisingly, the unintended subtext of this story is more compelling. What purports to be an exposé of a flawed industry becomes a chilling depiction of a woman in free-fall. Thompson spends lots of time trying not to cry, and then bemoaning ‘the fuckers’ who won’t cut her any slack. She drinks to be accepted, to compete, to trade, to forget the failed trades, to relax at 4am, and to function again three hours later. Her eventual arrival at A&E with a severe kidney infection is not exactly a plot twist.

At another debauched dinner (at Nobu, natch; remind me to stop going there), Thompson speculates that she could have left her misogynistic colleagues to it, and none would have noticed. But she stays, committed to keeping up with the boys. It’s a book not so much about a culture of excess than about the disabling nature of abusive relationships.

A possible epiphany on a Nobu toilet is squandered with the realisation not that her job is pedalling a false dream, but that she wants more money for doing it. Even The Spectator article was only ever a subconscious attempt to quit; in her mind Thompson figured she’d give broking ‘another six months’. It all makes for a sad story.

Sad, not least because Thompson writes as she lives: fearlessly and with admirable energy. Hopefully, now she’s got this episode out of her system, she has freed herself up to pen the cracking novel I’m certain she can pull off, which might play to her crisp powers of observation and which might have wide appeal. Because there’s a small hand grenade of a line buried in this book: ‘Everything that was funny or interesting about the City seemed to work only in context. When I got home, nothing translated.’ How true

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