Joss Sheldon Money Power Love: a novel, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017, 1976365112
The three protagonists of this independently published novel are born at almost the same time in three adjoining terraced houses and when a fire engulfs their homes all three are orphaned. The tales of their lives unfold in picaresque fashion but this is not a version of The Three Musketeers although adventures come thick and fast. Hugo is sent to a workhouse but finds himself living on the streets before being apprenticed to a barber with a side line in surgery. Mayer is adopted by a well-to-do couple and apprenticed to a baker who distrusts coins and notes, preferring to keep accounts with tally sticks. The final member of the trio, Archibald, is raised by a loving uncle and aunt in a supportive community.
Miraculously, our three ‘heroes’ encounter one another in their early teens and they continue to meet regularly in a spirit of comradeship. Although unaware of it, there is a deeper reason for the intuitive sense of kinship that cements their friendship for one another despite diverse upbringings.
The words of the book’s title are key markers for the very dissimilar core values that differentiate the three friends and which characterize the conflicting paths they follow in adulthood. Mayer becomes rich after realising the simple logic that allows banks to flourish and his success is part of the theme of economic history that the author weaves into the book. Hugo marries for love and is blissfully happy until his philanthropy leads him to question an economic system that makes charities necessary and limited in their ability to effect real change. Archibald pursues power as a substitute for love or money, illustrating one of the quotations that begin each chapter: ‘Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power’ (dubiously attributed to Oscar Wilde). Money Power Love, then, deals with matters of consequence but the book’s simplistic way of writing – a form of tabloid-style fiction – may well disappoint many readers. It possesses no literary value but complexity is not necessarily a virtue and if the book’s characters are read as merely ciphers for concepts then there is a message worth dwelling on.
Sean Sheehan is author of ‘Žiżek: A Guide for the Perplexed’ (Continuum, 2012) and a forthcoming guide to Herodotus’ Histories.