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*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Money Power Love on Goodreads


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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Book Review: The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet

Funny, clever but challenging satire on French politics and intellectuals

7thfunctionAbout the Book

Publisher’s description: Roland Barthes is knocked down in a Paris street by a laundry van. It’s February 1980 and he has just come from lunch with Francois Mitterrand, a slippery politician locked in a battle for the Presidency. Barthes dies soon afterwards. History tells us it was an accident. But what if it were an assassination? What if Barthes was carrying a document of unbelievable, global importance? A document explaining the seventh function of language – an idea so powerful it gives whoever masters it the ability to convince anyone, in any situation, to do anything. Police Captain Jacques Bayard and his reluctant accomplice Simon Herzog set off on a chase that takes them from the corridors of power and academia to backstreet saunas and midnight rendezvous. What they discover is a worldwide conspiracy involving the President, murderous Bulgarians and a secret international debating society. In the world of intellectuals and politicians, everyone is a suspect. Who can you trust when the idea of truth itself is at stake?

Book Facts

  • Format: ebook
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital
  • No. of pages: 400
  • Publication date: 4th May 2017
  • Genre: Literary Fiction

To pre-order/purchase from Amazon.co.uk click here (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)


My Review (3 out of 5)

If I tell you this book is about the death of the author of ‘The Death of the Author’ (Roland Barthes) plus one of the character wonders if he’s just a character in a novel, you’ll understand we’re well into metafictional territory here.   This is a funny, clever novel but at times it is a little too knowingly clever. Furthermore, if you have little knowledge of linguistic theory, its main players or French politics then I fear a lot of the jokes will be lost on you. This reader has a limited knowledge of linguistics from having studied for an MA in English but I reckon a lot of the satire and allusions went over my head.

As well as Barthes, there are parts for real life figures including Michael Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Sartre and Umberto Eco. Whether they would be flattered by their depiction as sex-obsessed, alcohol-fixated individuals constantly engaged in intellectual one-upmanship, I’m not sure.  Really, it comes across as a colossal payback for anyone who has ever had to struggle to understand linguistic theory or semiotics.

Think The Name of the Rose transported to the Paris of the 1980’s, with Inspector Bayard given the task of tracking down a document that reveals a previously unknown seventh function of language that will give the possessor unrivalled powers of persuasion (very useful if you want to become President of France). Bayard engages a side-kick in the person of linguistic lecturer, Simon Herzog, who attempts to help Bayard understand some of the concepts, with limited success it has to be said. Simon is probably the most engaging character in the book. I particularly liked the scenes where he uses James Bond films to explain linguistic concepts and decodes the educational backgrounds of drinkers in a bar from their gestures, in the manner of Sherlock Holmes with the man who loses the goose in ‘The Blue Carbuncle’.

I really wanted Julia Kristeva to be the culprit (and I’m not saying whether she was or wasn’t) just because I had to study her work as part of my OU course and found it almost impossible to understand.  Sorry, Julia.

In the end, the in-jokes and the satire rather overwhelmed the unravelling of the mystery so although I could admire the achievement and the author’s obvious erudition I couldn’t love this book. I admit I struggled through some of the passages.  I’d like to give a big shout-out to translator, Sam Taylor, who had to cope with some extremely abstruse linguistic and semiological concepts.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Random House UK, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Satirical, intellectual, playful

Try something similar…Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco


LaurentBinetAbout the Author

The son of an historian, Laurent Binet was born in Paris, graduated from the University of Paris in literature and taught literature in the Parisian suburbs and eventually at University. He was awarded the 2010 Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman for his first novel, HHhH.

Connect with Laurent…

Twitter https://twitter.com/LaurentBinetH