Trading Futures

Picador, London, 2016. ISBN 978-1509806423, 224 pp (hardback)

02 1 Trading Futures jacketABOUT THE BOOK

“We envy more than any of our enviers, and what we envy is our own youth and how it amounted to so little. Our generation made the great mistake of peaking too soon, in fact barely after we’d arrived.”

This is Matthew Oxenhay at 60: a stranger to his wife, an embarrassment to his children, and failed former contender for the top job at his City firm. The novel is set in 2008, at the onset of the financial crisis, which acts as a metaphor for Matthew’s personal crisis. Two events trigger his crisis. The first is being fired from his job. The second is a chance meeting with Anna, whom he hasn’t seen since 1967. These events set him wondering whether he shouldn’t trade his own future for a new one.

It is a funny novel. It is also a progressively dark novel. To some extent, it is the story of what could be any man’s mid-life crisis, but it also represents the mid-life crisis of the generation that grew up in the Sixties on a wave of optimism. While the world they have since encountered may be no worse than the world other generations have experienced, the sense of a let-down is far greater. The gap between expectation and reality has been immense, and into that gap falls Matthew Oxenhay.


[Read more from the reviews]

Trading Futures could be called the baby boomers’ lament… [Jim Powell’s] well-received first novel was published in 2010, at the age of 61… It’s well worth spending an afternoon of grey-haired, paunchy angst with this admirably slim encore.” – Robbie Millen, The Times, 26 March 2016

“This is one of those novels that is really a catch-all vessel for the writer’s observations about life, spiced with some neat one-liners. It has a Reginald Perrin charm about it and an unexpected twist in the tail, but it stays affably bleak to the end.” – Sunday Times, 27 March 2016

“Powell’s second novel could almost be a comedy of a bumbling Englishman; instead it’s a dark tale about the decisions we make and where they leave us. [His] account of decline and doubt feels authentic, and this is a claustrophobic, compelling book.” – James Smart, Guardian, 1 April 2017

“With his gallows humour and observational wit, Jim Powell gives us a vivid portrait of a man in meltdown… In the first half, I thought I was reading male menopause lit, … but, in fact, it’s altogether darker and more interesting than that.” – Carla McKay, Daily Mail, 11 March 2016

“Powell is very good on the sense of lost youth, nostalgia and what might have been. “There is never the measure of time we believe there to be,” ponders Matthew when he meets Anna again. “We fail to do things, confident there will be time later, to find the moment gone.” Despite this note of gloom, this is a novel that is at once honest and cautionary.” – Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times, 7 May 2016

“A la manière d’un Tom Sharpe dépressif ou d’un David Lodge cynique, Jim Powell envoie un roman tour à tour hilarant et glaçant, d’où émerge, au fil des pages, un constat sur la vie qui n’aurait pas déplu à Cioran. Ce n’est pas un manuel d’optimisme… [Like a depressive Tom Sharpe or a cynical David Lodge, Jim Powell gives us a novel that is alternately hilarious and chilling, from which emerges an observation on life that would not have displeased Emil Cioran. This is not a guidebook to optimism…]” – Nicolas Ungemuth, Le Figaro, 21 May 2016

“Ce roman incisif et dense réserve autant de surprises que la vie elle-même… Entre comique grinçant et mélancolie douce, Jim Powell excelle à évoquer ces moments libérateurs où le cours d’une vie entière peut changer. [This incisive and compact novel holds as many surprises as life itself. Between rasping comedy and gentle melancholy, Jim Powell excels in evoking those liberating moments where the course of a whole life can change.]” – Le Figaro online, 21 May 2016

“Succinct, sardonic and packed with sparkling one-liners, Jim Powell’s Trading Futures is a scalpel-sharp dissection of baby-boomer angst… Highly recommended.” – Jackie Wilkin, WI Life, April 2016

“Key to this book …  and the thing that makes it impossible to put down, is its strong and constant dark humour. It’s a short read, but entertaining, thoughtful and very witty.” – Herald Scotland, 17 March 2016; Yorkshire Post, 26 March 2016

“A shrewd, witty, depressing book about youthful ideals and their loss.” – Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 April 2016

“Not such an unusual story. What makes this one stand apart is the wit of its author and the calibre of his writing…  Some absorbing ideas and an absolute joy to read from start to finish.” – Sue Broom, Nudge, March 2016

“Matthew’s story unfolds through his own waspish, darkly funny inner monologue… He’s that uncomfortable mixture of self-loathing and arrogance. Sharply observed and grimly funny, in the end Matthew’s journey is a sobering one. An enjoyable read.” – Susan Osborne, A Life in Books, 23 March 2016

“The writing is excellent and the jokes are funny… It is well constructed, knowledgeable and feels true to suburban south-east England and to time, but the narrator is not always easy company.” – Ouida Taaffe, Financial World, April/May 2016

[Read more from the reviews]

[hear Jim Powell’s interview with John Wilson on Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’]