ONE TO WATCH OUT FOR: Trading Futures by Jim Powell

Article published on November 27, 2015.

Matthew Oxenhay is a baby boomer reviewing his life having reached the age of 60. And it’s not a happy experience as we listen in to his internal monologue – all those aspirations to change the world, back when he was 20, have come to naught. It’s not that he’s not been successful within conventional mores – career in the City so financially he’s extremely well-breached, v. nice house in Barnet (somebody has to), wife that loves him and looks after him, successful kids. All to no avail; although he claims not to fall for self-pity (he does, actually, a couple of times) he is bitter and twisted. (Full disclosure: I am a baby boomer of similar vintage and there are many resonances for your correspondent in this book although few of the above descriptions prevail as we speak!)

It’s dangerous to assume that the author is being autobiographical but the intro to the proof says

“Jim Powell was born in London in 1949 and was educated at Cambridge. His first career was in advertising, becoming Managing Director of a major London agency. He then started a pottery . . . He was previously active in politics, contesting the 1987 election and collaborating with former Foreign Secretary Francis Pym on his book . . . He lives in Northamptonshire.” (Somebody has to.)

Let’s just say it sounds like Jim is well positioned to write about Matthew? The intriguing cover reminded me of my childhood when we grew new carrots from the tops of old ones by suspending them over water close enough to develop new roots. I wonder if they still do that? Anyway, having managed to create a scorched earth strategy on his own career, Matthew has even more leisure in which to ponder his achievements.

If you’re going to have a coincidence then it’s best to set it somewhere aspirational and Matthew is in Tate Modern when he bumps into ‘the girl that got away’ when he was 19. Better still, she’s happy to allow him to engage her in conversation and even better – at least for the moment – doesn’t appear to remember Matthew.

You’ll have gathered already that I have certain sympathies with Matthew and it is easy to follow his train of thought as he gently slides towards self-destruction. What I didn’t see coming was the end – and given this is a very readable book of only 170 pages I really should – there were some clues I managed to miss. No matter it is the journey that counts and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Matthew and would be very pleased to meet Anna if he were good enough to pass on her address.

Guy Pringle
Personal 4
Group 4

Trading Futures by Jim Powell
Macmillan hbk March 2016

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The King’s Return by Andrew Swanston

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I Refuse by Per Petterson

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