The lighter side to financial ruin

Financial lives of the poets jess walter


I bought this book by Jess Walter as soon as I finished his excellent summer stunner Beautiful Ruins. It also came highly recommended by one of my favourite British authors, Nick Hornby. It didn’t disappoint.

The Financial Lives of the Poets is a touching, funny and desperate story of laid-off financial journalist Matt Prior and how he sails about as close to the edge of ruin as you can go.

After being made redundant from his newspaper, Matt embarks on starting a poetry website on all things financial. But who needs that, right? So when the hits don’t come and the debt racks up coupled with no income and his wife’s retail therapy on ebay, he ends up having just six days to save his house.

A chance meeting with a pothead at a 7/11 leads Matt to think that small-time drug dealing might be his salvation. The story that develops reminds me a little of Christopher Brookmyre’s comedy/crime novels. Matt’s plan to get funds fast at the same time as spying on his wife’s online lover, dealing with no sleep and a father stuck in the dementia cycle, means a great plot with superb, witty dialogue for us.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The perfect novel to race through in a few days with its short chapters and pacey storyline. My only negative would be that it all got tied up a little too tidily in the end and seemed to be cut short.

An author I will keep reading for sure, though.


Notes on the author – Jess Walter

  • Lives in Washington
  • Author of 6 novels
  • Published in 15 countries

Just the (Italian) job this summer



Italian coastline! Glamorous movie stars! Romance! Everything you need from fantastically written, modern, summer fiction can be found right here in Jess Walter’s exquisite, rich story, Beautiful Ruins. In his book he takes us to the coast of Italy and to Rome, with brief stop offs in Idaho, England and Scotland before concluding half a century later in Hollywood.

Set mostly in a remote Italian fishing port in 1962, we meet Pasquale, a young man with big dreams but only a small forgotten hotel (amusingly called The Hotel Adequate View) to show for them. A beautiful young American actress mistakenly comes to his hotel (from the movie set of Cleopatra with Burton and Taylor) to hide from the world, convinced she is dying. Fate, circumstance and a langauge barrier seek to block a promising romance between the actress and the unassuming hotellier as she faces up to the real cause of her illness and he questions everything that has gone before. From there a fabulous tale unfurls featuring flawed characters, crazy romance and scenic landscapes spanning  fifty years and two continents. Continue reading