Review by DearKitty Blog: Novel about banks in London

Author Nyla Nox‘s new book, to be published on 6 March 2015, is called Graveyards of the Banks – I did it for the money. It is the first part of a trilogy. This first book ends with a cliffhanger. A new worker, called Vera, arrives at the bank. She will play a major, dramatic, role in the sequels. Which role exactly, we will only know when the sequels will be published.

This work of fiction (as a statement at the beginning of the book reminds readers) is based on the non-fictional reality of the author’s time working at a United States-owned bank in the City of London; a time which was at least as disastrous for her as the time of British poet Attila the Stockbroker when he had a job as a stockbroker’s clerk.

Nyla studied anthropology, but could not get work in that field. Her bank job is at the graphics department. She is not an official bank employee, but works through a sub-contracting scheme undermining workers’ rights. She had to declare she was not a trade union member; workers who joined unions were sacked immediately.

The ‘graveyards’ in the book’s title refer to the bank building in the book being next to a cemetery. And they refer to Nyla working with furniture arranged in cross-like shapes around her. They also refer to her bank work as a ‘graveyard’ for the hopes she and colleagues had when they studied humanities. They also refer to her working the ‘graveyard shift’; working from midnight-8am. Not good for one’s health; though some other bank workers have even worse work times, which may result in deaths. Nyla Nox did not work without pay; though some bank bosses advocate that. However, if she would get sick, she would get no money at all.

Late in the nineteenth century, another author, Robert Walser from Switzerland, also worked at a bank. Walser is seen as a major influence on Franz Kafka. If one compares Walser’s writing style to Nyla Nox, then the difference is obvious: mainly compact, short sentences in Graveyards of the Banks. Often long, complex sentences in Walser’s works. Walser sometimes has protagonists working at banks in his short stories, but bank work is not the main subject.

The content of Graveyards of the Banks is somewhat reminiscent of Kafka’s The Castle, in its descriptions of labyrinthine hierarchy and bureaucracy; though architecture and technology are 21st century. Hierarchical bureaucracy, reminiscent in some ways of fascism, the author writes; a brand of fascism without swastikas and SS uniforms. Nyla Nox also compares bank work conditions to Mordor, the land of evil in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. ‘They [the top level bureaucrats] were the 1%. We were the 99%’. But, at least in this first book, a 99% without an Occupy Wall Street or other movement to inspire them; most of the time, the oligarchy’s tactics to divide and rule the 99% work.

Lots of talk in the banks’ propaganda about the ‘new economy’, the brave new world where, because of the information technology revolution, there would be no more economic crises etc. etc. Clearly, the novel here describes ideas of some years ago. Echos of the time before the bubble burst.

The CEO of the bank is ‘Tom’ in New York City. The lower ranking employees never meet him. Like ‘Big Brother’ in George Orwell’s 1984, one might ask whether ‘Tom’ really exists, outside his propaganda e-mails to employees. Also somewhat reminiscent of 1984 in Graveyards of the Banks is Nyla’s love affair (is it a love affair?) with Peter. Like for Winston Smith in 1984 Julia is basically the only person with whom he can talk critically about their environment, Peter is basically the only person to whom Nyla can talk (mainly in the real graveyard just outside the bank) critically about their financial sector jobs.

Conclusion: a really interesting book not only for people interested in literature, or in London city, but also for people interested in how capitalism works. Not how it works as depicted in glossy public relations booklets like the ones Nyla worked at designing; but how it works in practice behind the scenes.


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“Part satire, part thriller and part exposé, this book explores the dark corporate underbelly of the banking world and of those who are stuck working in it.” “Nox has a clear, honest writing style and has unique and refreshing ways of describing people and their relationships. ” “This was an interesting book that gave a lot […] Continue reading

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“I really liked the character Nyla.” ” I also learned a lot about finance and banks in this book. I love books like this, when the author is writing about an industry, and writes it so well that we actually learn something.” “The writing style (like I mentioned above), is very unique. It took me a while to […] Continue reading

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