Trading Futures

zTimes reviewREVIEWS

Robbie Millen, The Times, 26 March 2016
Trading Futures could be called the baby boomers’ lament… What starts as a light and droll Reggie Perrin-style novel about the fall of a middle-aged everyman, a “perfect makeweight in an identity parade”, becomes, by the end, surprisingly dark and intense. We see the crack-up through Matthew’s eyes, which also allows for some wittily caustic observations about modern living… It’s well worth spending an afternoon of grey-haired, paunchy angst with this admirably slim encore.  [read more]

zSunday Times reviewSunday Times, 27 March 2016
Not in any hurry for his midlife crisis, Matthew is 60 when he realises that he doesn’t have the life he wanted. A city futures trader who votes Labour and got away for years with letting the weather make his decisions (buy coffee if it’s raining), the hero of Powell’s glum comic novel is now drinking too much, sick of his job, and quietly unhappy with his marriage. Then one day in Tate Modern he runs into Anna, a woman he remembers from 40 years earlier when they were teenagers listening to Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale, and suddenly everything seems possible. 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.

James Smart, Guardian, 1 April 2017
Matthew Oxenhay unwillingly attends his own 60th birthday party, drinks too much and delivers a bilious speech in front of his pleasant wife, blameless children and boss. Then, having been let go by said boss a few weeks later, he starts greeting his embarrassed colleagues outside his City office at the start and end of each day, whiling away the hours in between in coffee shops. 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. Over the years, Oxenhay has moved from 60s radical to a frustrated life in the suburbs, in which alcohol, lies and disappointment have congealed to form a shell that keeps the world at a safe distance. “We invented sex and music, and freedom and peace,” he mourns, “and all sorts of things that turned out to be unpatentable”. When an old flame appears, he drives out to the Devon-Somerset borders dreaming of escape. Powell’s account of decline and doubt feels authentic, and this is a claustrophobic, compelling book, although it never quite soars.

zDaily Mail reviewCarla McKay, Daily Mail, 11 March 2016
At 60, Matthew Oxenhay looks back on his life and doesn’t like what he sees… It’s all downhill from there, but entertainingly so – at least at first. 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, a genre bound to become ever more popular, but, in fact, it’s altogether darker and more interesting than that.  [read more]

160507 FTCarl Wilkinson, Financial Times, 7 May 2016

Jim Powell’s second novel follows the rise, but mainly the fall of 60-year-old English banker Matthew Oxenhay. Matthew has worked in the City his whole adult life, since willingly offering himself as “the meat in the grinder of a huge sausage machine, churning away into oblivion” in his twenties… 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.  [read more]

Nicolas Ungemuth, Le Figaro, 21 May 2016
Le sexagénaire part conquérir son rêve de jeun homme au fin fond de la campagne anglaise, mais les choses ne se passeront pas comme prévu: quand on est une épave, forcément, c’est plus complique. 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…

[The 60 year-old goes to meet his own young man’s dream in the depths of the English countryside, but things don’t turn out as planned: when you’re a wreck, matters are inevitably more complicated. 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…]  [read more]

 Le Figaro online, 21 May 2016
Ce roman incisif et dense réserve autant de surprises que la vie elle-même. Comme Matthew, le protagoniste sarcastique et sensible de Moi, ma vie et les autres, le lecteur embarque pour les montagnes russes de l’existence et passe du rire aux larmes. 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. Like Matthew, the sarcastic and sensitive protagonist of Me, My Life and Others, the reader embarks on the roller-coaster of life and goes from laughter to tears. Between rasping comedy and gentle melancholy, Jim Powell excels in evoking those liberating moments where the course of a whole life can change.]  [read more]

zWI Life reviewJackie Wilkin, WI Life, April 2016
Succinct, sardonic and packed with sparkling one-liners, Jim Powell’s Trading Futures is a scalpel-sharp dissection of baby-boomer angst… But can [Matthew] really re-write the script and regain control? Of course not. [His] interior monologue grows increasingly desperate as his life unravels like a ripped sleeve. Highly recommended. [read more]

Sophie Herdman: Herald Scotland, 17 March 2016; Irish News, 17 March 2016; Yorkshire Post, 26 March 2016
Matthew Oxenhay … is a selfish and often unlikeable character, but by the end of the book, you feel a great affection for this angry and confused man. That’s testament to author Jim Powell… Key to this book though, 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.  [read more]

Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 April 2016
Matthew is having a mid-late-life crisis. He lives in a London suburb and has been sacked from his job in futures trading after making several million pounds as “a gambler”… He is also haunted by the memory of Anna, a teenage blonde with whom he remembers lying innocently talking in the grass one afternoon 40 years ago. This is a shrewd, witty, depressing book about youthful ideals and their loss.  [read more]

Sue Broom, Nudge, March 2016
Here we have the story of a man in mid-life crisis, trying to evaluate what he has achieved over the years… Not such an unusual story. What makes this one stand apart is the wit of its author and the calibre of his writing… I thought I would zip through it in no time, but hadn’t calculated for the density of the writing. Some absorbing ideas and an absolute joy to read from start to finish.  [read more]

Susan Osborne, A Life in Books, 23 March 2016
Matthew’s story unfolds through his own waspish, darkly funny inner monologue. He’s a ‘60s rebel for whom the very idea of a career as a futures trader would have been despicable all those years ago. He’s that uncomfortable mixture of self-loathing and arrogance… In amongst all this, Matthew comes out with some observations it’s hard to argue with particularly on the subject of the City’s shenanigans. Sharply observed and grimly funny, in the end Matthew’s journey is a sobering one… An enjoyable read then – and who can resist a novel which contains the line ‘I think I mostly learn about reality from works of fiction’.  [read more]

Ouida Taaffe, Financial World, April/May 2016
Trading Futures is about the experiences of a man who made a very good living in the futures market – not because of some special genius, but because he was in the right place at the right time and wanted to make money… The writing is excellent and the jokes are funny… [The novel] is well constructed, knowledgeable and feels true to suburban south-east England and to time, but the narrator is not always easy company.  [read more]

Melanie Gay, The National Rust, 31 January 2017
When it comes to writing about angst and misery some feel that women do this best. I disagree. Novelists like Edward St Aubyn and now Jim Powell can “do” self- recrimination, pathos, self-absorption, fragmentation of the character with humour and sensitivity. [read more]