REVIEWS FOR LITERARY WORLD REVIEWS
Title: Graveyards of the Banks – I did it for the money: Seven Seasons of Midnights at the Most Successful Bank in the Universe
Author: Nyla Nox
Published: March 2015
Genre: Business and Money/Banks and Banking. Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction
One woman’s toxic workplace hell.
Nyla Nox stumbles into a world of corporate bullying and shame at the world’s most successful institution. You won’t believe what goes on there…
The graphics center of the Most Successful Bank in the Universe (a real bank, but not its real name!), where Nyla ends up, is a graveyard of broken dreams where artists, psychologists, historians, philosophers and even teachers end up ‘doing it for the money’ while the bankers, who treat them like scum, are being brutally groomed to become the leaders of tomorrow.
What do you really know about life inside the Big Banks?
Did you know that, right now as you read this, a hidden tribe of jobless humanities graduates is working deep inside those secret and powerful institutions? Do you have any idea how toxic these workplaces are? And how badly most of the workers in the banks (who are not bankers themselves) are treated? Do you know why they are treated like this?
‘Graveyards of the Banks’ tells the truth about life in the Banks, about life as a single woman in London, about saying farewell to broken dreams and surviving (just!) a hair raising sequence of corporate attacks on your dignity, your self-esteem and even on your physical health, night after night, just to make rent.
Life is never dull at the Most Successful Bank in the Universe. The night shift is a battle field of bullies and bitches, emotions go wild at 4AM, and Nyla has to fight for survival every single minute.
Do you realize that the corporate bullying and shaming is not an accident? Nyla stumbles into that world, the Bank’s playground and training ground for Survival of the Fittest. The top bankers talk about it as their ‘killing ground’.
Nyla Nox was interviewed about her life in the Banks by the London Guardian and has written about her book and her experience in many well known international magazines. Her story seems to be an inconvenient truth, too extreme to believe. But her truth has been confirmed, again and again, by the Big Banks themselves, through their own announcements.
Read for yourself how the toxic banking system rots our hearts and minds, and our society. And as Nyla’s story shows, you don’t need to be a banker to be directly affected.
Whoever you are, the Banks are deciding your life for you.
“..Quite a few interviewees have described investment banks as abusive environments. But they seem to consider this an outcome, not an act of design. Nyla Nox thinks it’s deliberate. [Her story] struck me as perhaps extreme, but reading her experiences perhaps she did see the beast in the eye.”
Joris Luyendijk, The Guardian.
“ Wow. This was an amazing, moving book. … You know how a show like The Office perfectly captured everyone you work with in an office setting? This book does that with the financial world, while at the same time making you feel like you’re walking through this financial hell with Dante.”
Aaron Hoos, Financial Fiction Reviews
“… Graveyards of the Banks is somewhat reminiscent of Kafka’s ‘The Castle’ The Castle, in its descriptions of labyrinthine hierarchy and bureaucracy. … reminiscent in some ways of fascism, 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’.”
‘Dear Kitty’ social justice blog.
I am reviewing this book as part of the Lit World Interviews review team and was offered a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Nyla, the protagonist of this novel-cum-memoir (the author is also called Nyla and in the description of the book she explains the narration is born of her personal experience working for a bank, which although it remains nameless, it’s ‘the Most Successful Bank in the Universe’) works for the department preparing the publications that seemingly are the only visible output the bank produces. These always show predictions of growth for their clients, although as she discovers, such predictions are based on no real data. It’s a con but it must look good.
We only know the basics about the protagonist, who is an anthropology graduate and after years of trying to make a living out of her vocation is close to destitution (in fact at the beginning of the novel, when she’s going to undertake the selection test to get the job that will occupy the rest of the book, she only has £3 in her pocket). We know she lives in a bedsit, but nothing about her personal life, family or relationships. She talks about her love of studying, books, Philosophy, and the first person narration puts the reader inside her head, and we suffer with her the claustrophobia, the harassment, the bullying, and the minor joys (very minimal) she experiences. It does not make for easy reading, let me tell you.
Nyla is very insightful, both about the world and society around her (and she offers great anthropological, sociological and political insights, including how this bank’s behaviour towards his employees is only different in style rather to historical fascist regimes, even if they prefer to see it as social Darwinism) and about herself. She observes others, she tries to study ways of surviving (she’s doing it for the money, she keeps telling herself, to try and get to ‘a better place’), and she knows she is no better than others. Her comments about becoming the witch bitch reminded me of an article I read years back by Barbara Creed about Alien and what she called ‘the monstrous feminine’. Oh yes, she can be scary, but she’s strong.
There are lighter moments, like her songs dedicated to the sweets machine (and although she doesn’t name them, we know them) but these get swallowed up by the soul-destroying routine of working at the bank.
The bank (and the author’s descriptions of the place and the situation brought to my mind not only Kafka and Orwell but also the movie Brazil) is next door to an old graveyard where the protagonist spends some of her waiting time and this London graveyard is the perfect backdrop to the action and a mirror image of the institution, only the graveyard doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t (and seems more welcoming). Like the air conditioning system, filled with nobody knows what, and a nest of corruption and sickness, the whole empire seems to be a bomb ticking. Like Nyla, who fantasises about being sacked, but worries about how she’d manage, we want to see the place collapse but don’t want Nyla to go under. The ending of this first book in the series is a cliffhanger for what might come when Monsters Arise.
This is a fascinating book, a very subjective experience for the reader, but not a novel with a plot full of action. We get to know the inside of the character’s mind but not her life. I don’t think it’s a book for everybody but it’s a scary look into a world some might have suspected existed, but not quite like this. If you want to know more about investment banking from a totally unique perspective, and you dare, go for it.
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
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I thought I’d share some ‘pearls’ from the book:
‘After all, the Bank was supposed to know things nobody else did and could penetrate the darkness of economic confusion as well as predict the future. I have no idea how much our clients knew about our processing methods but in reality they were part of a ‘one size fits all’ production line.’
‘After all my time at the Bank, reading so many of their Books, I am at a complete loss to understand why the clients kept coming back, and kept paying our exorbitant fees for a service (‘copy and mutilate’) that was insultingly incompetent and had been discredited time after time. The only explanation I can come up with is that they must have been true believers in the natural leadership of high finance, and as such impervious to experience. ‘
‘After all, we were not one of those inept public service bureaucracies where the staff got sick leave and pensions.’
Olga Núñez Miret