Matt and Lisa Prior, like many people in the Noughties, live beyond their means, having bought into the idea that happiness exists solely in a bigger house, better clothes and a private education for one’s children. Sadly, Matt is a financial journalist and the couple live in the US, where the newspaper industry’s collapse has been even more dramatic than it has been here. (As Matt astutely points out, the Internet finished off newspapers by inducing ‘the last reader under forty to cancel his daily newspaper subscription so he can devote more time to masturbating to online porn’.) He left a good job a few years earlier to start a financial website that delivered some of its news in verse. Following its unsurprising failure, he returned to his old job laden with debts, but was soon made redundant.
As the novel begins, Matt is running out of time in which to find $30,000 for mortgage and school-fee arrears. He also has to save his ailing marriage, since Lisa is enjoying an online affair with a former (and frustratingly