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Jul 9, 2015

Hot Jane Austen in Silicon Valley

Jim Morgan reads 'The Underwriting', a new novel of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, and goes from dismissing it to finding it kind of hot.

W H Chong — Culture Mulcher

W H Chong

Culture Mulcher


The Underwriting
Michelle Miller
Text Publishing rrp $29.99
Reviewed by Jim Morgan

The Underwriting is a novel, written by a woman, about the cut-throat milieu and sexuality that presumably really exists in the nexus between Wall Street and Silicon Valley amongst those who consider themselves ‘hot’, a word that becomes a trifle overworked in this rattling tale of derring-do in the world of money. (The title refers to an upcoming float of a company on the stock exchange.)

It reads as if written by an alpha male (which describes the male protagonaists too) — a not very attractive one at that: utterly self-obsessed, greedy, faithless, self-serving and given to exploitation of the other sex in every way possible, assisted by the latest dating app: Hook (another personal pimp, this one for heterosexuals) — the very thing about to be floated.

The story opens with a woman telling a man, ‘You are such an asshole’, whereby the writer starts a long way behind scratch in my book (why can’t the Americans just say “arsehole”?). A few lines later we are told how the female in question, has a nice ‘rack’ (pair of breasts, I have since learnt), which as one of the lead female characters in a ‘hot’ novel, she had every right to.

Apart from financial shanangians, there is sibling guilt, a campus date-murder mystery, the storage of incrimating information on the Hook server, all very topical, all serving the plot. And another female lead trips up over another male lead, who shows himself to be a good bloke in the event. At which point the story turns round in one swift and moving passage in a hotel bed, from sexual exploitation on both sides to something approximating love, whereby I suddenly knew where I was  — Pride and Prejudice (pub. 1813, sales: 20+ million copies, wherein, as we know, Mr Bingley at the outset is ‘well-received’, while his friend Mr Darcy makes a less favourable impression by appearing proud and condescending, detesting dancing and disdaining light conversation).

Miller has led us down the garden path with her hot toddy of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, yet in the resolution hands her reader over, sort of, though not in the way we might expect, to the gods of love . . . and left me at least with a warm fuzzy feeling, not to be disdained. So, once again, virtue finds a way.

Jane Austen, after the first three hundred pages, would have settled in and taken the love story, for such it is, in her stride. Both writers, Jane and Michelle Miller, are tough cookies, but I suspect not as unshockable as they present. Me, I would be more at home in the village of Meryton than Silicon Valley, because I spent most of my working life in the rural realities of chasing after sheep while observing the niceties of rural society up to a point — writing novels in between doesn’t count, the tapping of the Olivetti constantly overridden by the click of the shears, such were the times. We called a spade just that, rejoicing in our member, who happened to be Malcolm Fraser.

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Our book reviewer is James Waite Morgan , ex-pastoralist and novelist: Parakeet, Loving Helen, The Artist’s Wife, Fat of the Land — is the biographer of his grandparents, S.A. men in The Premier and the Pastoralist.

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