'Rich Boy' by Sharon Pomerantz

Though a friend likened "Rich Boy" to "The Great Gatsby" in its depiction of a young man living under the illusion that money can buy happiness, for me it evoked "An American Tragedy," Theodore Dreiser's great dramatic novel about a young man's struggle to the top rung of the American social ladder.

The kind of attention to the sticky matter of class that informs Dreiser's work animates "Rich Boy," Sharon Pomerantz's debut novel. It's set from the late 1960s to the 1980s boom under President Ronald Reagan. Robert Vishniak struggles out of the confines of his Jewish, working-class neighborhood, gets his New England education and heads to Wall Street — before the bust.

It's a big, old-fashioned novel in the best of that tradition. The paperback version offers a nifty guide, so this could be a book group favorite.

"Rich Boy"
By Sharon Pomerantz
Twelve, $14.99 (paperback), 528 pages