Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Review of The Recessionistas by Alexandra Lebenthal

The Recessionistas

The Recessionistas by Alexandra Lebenthal

The blurb:
It's the day after Labor Day, 2008, and the elite universe of New York's Upper East Side is about to unravel along with the economy.  Socialite Grigsby Somerset is barely aware of her changing world and has no idea her investment banker husband, Blake, is about to enter into a devil's bargain with hedge fund owner John Cutter.  As autumn unfolds, Grigsby's fairytale life starts to unwind.  Street-smart Renee Parker has been hired as John's executive assistant and is convinced that something is amiss with her new boss.  Renee enlists her friend Sasha Silver, CEO of Silver Partners, to help her decipher what is happening.  They soon discover that John is nearly ruined, except for the assets he is hiding in the Cayman Islands from his wife, Mimi, and has concocted with Blake a scheme to redeem himself.  This tale of expulsion from a modern-day Garden of Eden captures what happens when economic decline spells ruin for Manhattan's pampered elite.

The Recessionistas can safely be characterized as chicklit set in the middle of the financial meltdown in New York City.    While Lebenthal liberally creates unsympathetic characters like the wives of investment bankers, unscrupulous money managers, and backstabbing bosses,  we meet: 
  • Grigsby Somerset- an Alpha for as long as she can remember.  Surrounded by people who want to be like her, she her occupation is centered towards the right charities, clothes, and getting her daughter into the correct schools.  Her staff includes her personal trainer, stylist, decorator, and she's angling for a personal assistant.  
  • Blake Somerset - Grigsby's husband and a banker at Lehman Brothers.  A former classmate of John Cutter from Harvard Business School. 
  • Sasha Silver - CEO of SAMCO (Silver Asset Management Co) who is regretting having sold her company to the larger BridgeVest Financial.  She's hardworking, glamorous, and savvy with the perfect husband.  Sasha is having the most trouble dealing with Harry Mullaugh, BridgeVest's CEO and a showdown of sorts is inevitable.
  • John Cutter - heads Flying Point Capital, a "hot, new fund" with aggressive bets in the subprime mortgage market.   John is a notoriously difficult boss but a top producer.
  • Mimi Cutter - married to John Cutter and recently a "Greenwich wife".  She's has a art history degree from Harvard and has amassed an art collection that reflects her excellent taste and their unlmited funds.
  • Renee Parker - a Spence and Princeton graduate,  John Cutter's personal assistant, and despite her working class roots (her mother works as Grigsby and Blake Somerset's maid), Renee regularly appears in the society pages and as an active member of several of the "right charities." 
  • Amanda Belden - Renee Parker's nemesis at Spence and Director of Marketing at John Cutter's fund. 
The book's strength is in Lebenthal's coverage of the recession as it slowly unfolds.  She breaks down the events that caused the sudden collapse of the banking system while simultaneously painting a picture of how these events impact the daily lives of her memorable cast of characters.

ISBN-10: 0446563676 - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (August 9, 2010), 320 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:
Alexandra Lebenthal is the socially prominent President and CEO of Lebenthal & Co, and its wealth management division, Alexandra & James Inc. Her father is Jim Lebenthal, who made his name in municipal bonds. She also serves as a board member of the School of American Ballet and is involved with several other leading New York cultural institutions including The Business Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Capital Campaign for the Museum of the City of New York, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Botanical Garden.

Listen to an interview with Alexandra Lebenthal on Blog Talk Radio. Click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/335bbqv

Thank you to Brianne and Grand Central Publishing for this review opportunity!

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