Book Review: Money Power Love by Joss Sheldon

MoneyPowerLoveAbout the Book

Born on three adjacent beds, a mere three seconds apart, our three heroes are united by nature but divided by nurture. As a result of their different upbringings, they spend their lives chasing three very different things: Money, power and love.

This is a human story: A tale about people like ourselves, cajoled by the whimsy of circumstance, who find themselves performing the most beautiful acts as well as the most vulgar.

This is a historical story: A tale set in the early 1800s, which shines a light on how bankers, with the power to create money out of nothing, were able to shape the world we live in today.

And this is a love story: A tale about three men, who fall in love with the same woman, at the very same time…

Format: ebook, paperback (298 pp.)             Publisher:
Published: 7th October 2017                           Genre: Historical/Literary Fiction

Purchase Links*  ǀ  ǀ (supporting UK bookshops)
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My Review

Nominally set in the 1800s,  the author vividly depicts the sights and sounds of the London streets of the time, such as this description of traders taking advantage of the crowd gathered to witness a hanging.  ‘Surrounding this scrimmage, costermongers were selling just about anything which could be eaten, to just about anyone who could eat.  Their rickety barrows were overflowing with ice-cold oysters and burning hot eels; pies and puddings , crumpets and cough-drops, ginger-beer and gingerbread; pea soup, battered fish, sheep’s trotters, pickled whelks, baked potatoes, ice lollies, cocoa, and peppermint water.’ Characters such as Wilkins (surely the literary doppelganger of the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist) could have come straight out of Dickens, as could many of the character names: Timothy Tyrrell, Bumble Blumstein. There’s even a sneaky reference to a famous opening line from Dickens: ‘They were the best of times.  They were the worst of times.’

Throughout the book, the author’s love of language – at one point a set of steps is described as ‘bodacious’ – and fondness for alliterative pairings is evident (as in the excerpt above).   At the same time, some of the language is deliberately anachronistic – fantabulous, mansplaining.   Readers will either find this amusing or irritating; I was in the former category most of the time.

All three main characters  – Hugo, Archibald and Mayer – have flaws and, despite being friends, their actions don’t always reflect this – especially when it comes to their rivalry for the affections of the same woman. None of the three are especially likeable but then they are really archetypes designed to illustrate the nature versus nurture debate and to demonstrate the consequences of being motivated by love (Hugo), power (Archibald) or money (Mayer).

Arguably, money plays the biggest part in the book as the author explores different forms of exchange that have been used over the centuries: barter, tally sticks, promissory notes.   At one point, Mayer muses: “Why, I’ve already heard of a new invention called ‘Cheques’.  Those could take off.  Maybe one day we’ll create token money, electronic money, or money spent on plastic cards.”   When his partner, Mr Bronze, protests that “money doesn’t grow on a magic money tree”, Mayer responds, “It does, Mr Bronze, and we bankers are its gardeners”.

Each chapter features an epigram from figures ranging from Mark Twain, to Confucius, to Banksy.  The story moves from Georgian London to Manchester, India, Van Diemen’s Land, China and Africa.   Along the way, through the stories of its three main protagonists, the book seeks to shed light on the worst excesses of colonialism and capitalism and to reveal the fragile foundations on which our financial systems are fabricated (note the alliteration please).

The motives of financial institutions and governments are ruthlessly exposed by the author. Here’s Mayer again: “We need charity; it compensates for the worst excesses of capitalism, without challenging the system itself.  It’s an investment which pays dividends; protecting capital from civil unreset.”  And again: “Wars are only ever fought to open up new markets, control resources and amass wealth.  All wars are bankers’ wars.”

Money Power Love is a surreal, satirical romp written with real verve and wit.  By turns funny, challenging, inventive, didactic and thought-provoking, it’s quite unlike any other book I’ve read, which did pose some problems when it came to my ‘Try something similar’ recommendation below*.

Now I’ve finished Money Power Love, I don’t know whether to go and eat some trifle, invest in bitcoins, invade a small country, go mudlarking or buy a backscratcher.  If that sentence intrigues you, why not pick up a copy of the book using one of the purchase links above.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

*For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, while I was reading the book I kept thinking of the film Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) starring Dennis Price and Alec Guinness.

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In three words: Imaginative, witty, satirical

Try something (possibly not at all) similar…The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding or Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Joss SheldonAbout the Author

Joss Sheldon is a scruffy nomad, unchained free-thinker, and post-modernist radical. Born in 1982, he was brought up in one of the anonymous suburbs which wrap themselves around London’s beating heart. Then he escaped!  With a degree from the London School of Economics to his name, Sheldon had spells selling falafel at music festivals, being a ski-bum, and failing to turn the English Midlands into a haven of rugby league.

Then, in 2013, he ran off to McLeod Ganj; an Indian village which plays home to thousands of angry monkeys, hundreds of Tibetan refugees, and the Dalai Lama himself. It was there that Sheldon wrote his debut novel, Involution & Evolution.  With several positive reviews to his name, Sheldon had caught the writing bug. He travelled to Palestine and Kurdistan, where he researched his second novel, Occupied, a dystopian masterpiece unlike any other story you’ve ever read.

It was with his third novel, The Little Voice, that Sheldon really hit the big time, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and gaining widespread critical acclaim.  Now Sheldon has returned with his fourth and most ambitious novel yet. Money Power Love is a literary mélange of historical, political and economic fiction; a love story that charts the rise of the British Empire, and the way in which bankers, with the power to create money out of nothing, were able to shape the world we live in today.

Joss’s latest novel, Individutopia, was published in August 2018.

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