In her second book This Was Not The Plan, which was published in France in June 2017, Cristina Alger, the author of The Darlings, continues to describe New York’s high finance. But, this time, rather than dwelling on the affairs, she focuses on love, family and the impact this world of sharks can have on the lives of those who choose to join it. Discover our review of this fascinating and moving novel that you won’t be able to drop until you finish it.
Four years after her first book The Darlings, Cristina Alger is eventually back with a new novel This Was Not The Plan, in which we follow the life of Charlie Goldwyn, a successful thirty-five-year-old business lawyer, who has been a widower for two years and who buries his grief and his loneliness under tons of work. Yet, when he gets fired for misconduct, he is forced to face what he was trying to escape: his family that had to cope with several successive losses and, in particular, his son Caleb, a fanciful little boy, of whom he had not really took care until then. Thus, the writer, a former financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, plunges us, once again, in the backstage of a world she knows so well.
Nevertheless, unlike her previous book that described all the different stages of a huge financial scandal in the style of a thriller, this one is not centred on the affair that led to Charlie’s dismissal. In fact, this event is only the starting point of the plot in which Cristina Alger concentrates on a theme that seems to be particularly important for her since she already thoroughly dealt with it in The Darlings: friendships and family relations. So, with her simple and direct style, the author depicts New York’s high society and gently mocks its defects. At the beginning of the book, Charlie perfectly corresponds to the idea people usually have of a business lawyer who is always at work and overpowered by the ambition to secure a promotion.
Nonetheless, we sympathize with this man who seems; after all, very lucid about this world filled with men who are ready to do anything to succeed and with greedy women in which he lives. Moreover, he is quickly confronted with “real life” and progressively changes his view of life as he learns from much less stereotyped characters, such as his five-year-old son who loves pink and Dora the Explorer but who has also developed a strange obsession for natural disasters. Cristina Alger could have given a Manichean vision by implying that Wall Street is peopled with crooks but it is not the case at all. Actually, all the protagonists have their good and their evil sides and this makes them even more realistic and likeable.
Besides, the chapters are short and the events build up rapidly without any real downtime so that we read the whole story straight through. Yet, unfortunately, the end seems a little bit disconnected, as if the last chapter had been added to the book. But, despite this, This Was Not The Plan, remains a very pleasant novel which is perfect to read on the beach this summer.
This Was Not The Plan by Cristina Alger, published in the United States of America in October 2016 by Touchstone (368 pages, $16), and in France in June 2017 by Albin Michel (376 pages, €21.50).