Some­thing Great and Beau­ti­ful: A Novel of Love, Wall Street, and Fo­cac­cia

En­rico Pel­le­grini Other Press (SEPTEM­BER) Soft­cover $15.95 (208pp) 978-1-59051-973-8

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - JOR­DANA LANDSMAN

En­rico Pel­le­grini gave the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis time to bake, rise, and cool be­fore blast­ing it with this in­ci­sive and satir­i­cal novel.

Af­ter a meet-cute in Italy, Rosso and Chloe take diver­gent paths. Years later, when she is a Wall Street lawyer and he an un­likely startup bil­lion­aire, they re­con­nect and fall in love. Their blended ro­man­tic and busi­ness highs are short­lived, how­ever; fed­eral prose­cu­tors soon try them for an ex­ten­sive list of white-col­lar crimes of which they may or may not be guilty.

This deceptively light-hearted com­edy in­vites readers to ru­mi­nate on what ex­actly hap­pened with the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and who is to blame. In a sys­tem so in­tri­cately in­ter­con­nected, it be­comes abun­dantly ob­vi­ous that no one acts alone. Lenders col­lude with bor­row­ers and vice versa. So, when lend­ing strays wildly out­side the bound­aries of con­ven­tional and safe risk lev­els, are banks to blame? What about the in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses that sought and ac­cepted fund­ing—are they guilty, too, for par­tic­i­pat­ing in lend­ing prac­tices that were sys­temic norms?

Alone, these dry eco­nomic ques­tions are easy to re­lin­quish to fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts and mar­ket reg­u­la­tors. How­ever, when wrapped in the ap­peal­ingly off­beat ad­ven­tures of Rosso and his bum­bling path to bread riches and ful­fill­ing love, such com­plex is­sues be­come far more palat­able. Is Rosso a savvy crook or an ig­no­rant dupe, and does it mat­ter? Few key ac­tors faced sub­stan­tial con­se­quences for the mar­ket’s 2008 col­lapse, and per­haps few peo­ple even un­der­stand what hap­pened or how to as­sess cul­pa­bil­ity. Whether Rosso is a vic­tim or per­pe­tra­tor of the sys­tem’s cor­rup­tion ul­ti­mately de­pends on per­spec­tive.

One thing is clear, how­ever: Rosso seeks to build some­thing tan­gi­ble and mean­ing­ful. Even in a bro­ken bank­ing sys­tem of in­tan­gi­bles, he ul­ti­mately suc­ceeds. Crook or not, that makes him a hero to root for.

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