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Capital [Kindle Edition]

John Lanchester
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (606 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the bestselling author of Whoops! and The Debt to Pleasure comes a post-financial crisis, state-of-the-nation novel told with compassion, humour and unflinching truth. Featuring a contemporary cast of characters that crosses race, class and religion, Capital is the moving and hugely topical story of one street caught on the brink of the crash.

Capital: the City of London. Capital: money, currency, finance. Both are central to the multicultural micro-society living and working on Pepys Road-an ordinary street in the Capital. Formerly working class, the simple houses have seen a wave of gentrification and expensive renovations that have rendered them highly desirable, valuable real estate.

Here lives Roger Yount, powerful investment banker daily trading risk against profit on the Foreign Exchange. An annual bonus of a million might seem excessive, but with second homes and nannies to maintain, he's not sure he can get by without it. Elsewhere on Pepys Road is the Muslim Pakistani family living above their convenience store, and a senior widow who entertains visits from her graffiti artist grandson. Recently arrived is Freddy Kano, teenage football celebrity, recruited from Senegal to join the Premier League, who left a two-room shack to follow his dream.

Their stories intertwine with the immigrant workers who service the wealthy residents of the City: Zbigniew, the builder from Warsaw, catering to the super-rich in their interior decoration whims; the nanny who looks after Roger's two small boys while his well-groomed wife indulges her shopaholic tendencies; and traffic warden Quentina, who has exchanged the violence of the police in Zimbabwe for the violence of the enraged upper middle classes. For them all, this city offers the chance of a different kind of life.

Each house has its own story and its own secrets, having seen its fair share of first steps and last breaths, and plenty of laughter in between. Today, through each letterbox along this ordinary street drops a card with a simple message: We Want What You Have.

Readers who enjoy Dickens and Trollope and such contemporary books as Sebastian Faulks' A Week in December, will not want to miss out on this fast-paced, cosmopolitan social saga that Booklist calls "remarkably vibrant and engrossing".

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'This is an intelligent and entertaining account of our grubby, uncertain, fragmented London society that has almost replaced religion with shopping. Read it.' --Claire Tomalin, Observer

'Brimming with perception, humane empathy and relish, its portrayal of this metropolitan miscellany is, in every sense, a capital achievement.' --Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

'John Lanchester's pacy novel Capital perfectly captures the zeitgeist of London on the cusp of the crash and after the mad house prices, the egregious bankers and their wives, the Polish builders, Zimbabwean parking attendants, vapid conceptual artists and wannabe jihadis.' --Andrew Neather, The Standard, Books of the Year

'John Lanchester packed a city's worth of modern archetypes - bankers to builders to asylum-seekers - into the single gentrified street of Capital: a metropolitan meltdown saga.' --Boyd Tonkin, The Independent, Books of the Year

'Why was John Lanchester's Capital not Booker-listed? It is a splendidly capacious novel that subsumes London life of today into a single street and the fates of its residents over a year or so, their diversity nicely reflecting the cosmopolitan city ... A dozen different stories, all equally persuasive and absorbing.' --Penelope Lively, The Spectator Books of the Year
'Unfurling a lively social panorama of London as the economic meltdown begins, Lanchester takes you (with a keen expansiveness and eye for telling detail reminiscent of 19th-century condition-of-England novels) into the minds and circumstances of a colourful diversity of characters ... Smartly informed about both money and the metropolis, Capital is suavely satiric and warmly humane.' --Peter Kemp, Sunday Times Books of the Year

'A dramatic and well-realised plot.' --Daily Telegraph

'Excellent novel ... compassion and insight are spread here across a suitably broad canvas.' --Sunday Herald

'John Lanchester has spun a complex and gripping tale of London life, a pre-crash portrait of greed and fear and money ... His characters are richly and sympathetically drawn ... He handles their disparate story lines with immense skill. There is, too, a rich seam of wit running throughout the book which makes it a treat to read, despite its serious intentions.' --Antonia Senior, The Times Book of the Week

'Both a rewarding and hugely entertaining read.' --Daily Express
'Enjoyably huge comic novel ... the real triumph of Capital is Lanchester's deft portraiture. His assured caricatures often yield odd, redeeming traits in a rolling narrative.' --Financial Times

'Neither full-on satire nor full-blown melodrama, John Lanchester's likeable novel of boom and hubristic bust in one microcosmic London street gains greatly from its author's journalistic worldliness ... he brings an authenticity to his portrayal of the characters.' --Irish Times

'Calm, detailed, and superbly engrossing - this is one of those wonderful chunky novels that will be your friend for a week.' --Evening Standard

'Both a rewarding and hugely entertaining read.' --Daily Express

'Calm, detailed, and superbly engrossing - this is one of those wonderful chunky novels that will be your friend for a week.' --Evening Standard


"Precise, humane and often hilarious, John Lanchester's Capital""teems with life. Its Dickensian sweep and its clear-eyed portrayal of the end of a strange era make this novel not only immensely enjoyable, but important, too."
--Claire Messud
"Strikingly original..."
--"The Guardian"
"Lanchester makes us care deeply about his imperiled characters....A remarkably vibrant and engrossing novel about what we truly value."
"Capital""[is] filled with the news of now, in which the intricacies of the present moment are noticed with clarity and relish and then brilliantly dramatized. It is clear that its characters, its wisdom, and the scope and range of its sympathy, will fascinate readers into the far future."
--Colm Toibin

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1255 KB
  • Print Length: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Fiction; 1st Edition 2nd Printing edition (20 Feb. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571234607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571234608
  • ASIN: B0071LQMMG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • : Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (606 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,215 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Capital 25 Aug. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book grew and grew on me. There were times when I kept thinking "why doesn't he get on with the story?" But gradually I began to appreciate more and more what John Lanchester was doing...building up snapshots of a group of very different people united only by their links, direct or otherwise, with Pepys Road. As the book progresses each of the protagonists experience some sort of life changing event but they remain essentially isolated from most of the other members of the loose community and are not able to share or celebrate or commiserate with each other. In this sense then the book is a parable of modern city living. I grew to care deeply about each of the characters and felt in turn distressed when things went wrong or rejoiced when things went well. Through the book John Lanchester's empathy shines through and the book reminds the reader that it is dangerous and wrong to make snap judgements or assumptions about the people around us no matter how much their immediate actions may tempt us to do so. The book also celebrates the richness of our multicultural society but does not shrink from going into some dark places.
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274 of 301 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not the way we live now 28 Feb. 2012
Perhaps John Lanchester has fallen prey to the hyperbole of his well meaning journalist colleagues: I had great expectations from the press for this novel and its reported ambition to pull together all the threads that make London what it is today: to be "The Way We Live Now" for the 21st century.

The premise is genius - take a south London street and its occupants from the old school banker heading for a fall, along with everyone else, to the old lady, the last of the ordinary pre-professional class who is dying, and use it as a prism to view London the city and the City of London. I recognised the street - hell, I live in a south London street between a retired electrician and his wife, who do indeed still have lino in the kitchen, and a banker who's putting in a loft conversion - and I recognised every single one of the characters from the banker's wife to the Polish builder. The plot bounces along, the writing is clean and well structured and it does manage to link all the disparate characters together in a way that doesn't jar. I want to love it and yet.....and yet......

The thing is: I know all this, and you do too. You know the characters if you've had a drink in a City bar, have employed a Polish builder, watched a episode of Gavin and Stacey, taken a trip to Harvey Nicks, watched Peston on the news and have heard of Banksy. I wanted more heft, more nuance, more insight, characters who were flesh and blood, not illustrations of a type. In short, I wanted more than a confirmation of what I can see around me every day. Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner.

"Capital" is worth the read, but wait for the paperback and a long flight. It may be the way we live now, but it won't be "The Way We Live Now" in a hundred years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting characters, weak central plot 22 Jan. 2014
The story begins "At first light on a late summer morning..." with a mysterious man creepily filming the houses of Pepys Road. The prologue kick-starts the chain of unsettling events that tenuously link the characters together.

Capital goes on to introduce a wealth of very different characters. Just to mention some of them there's Roger Yount the banker and his family; Mary, whose mother is dying of cancer; Freddy the footballer from Senegal; and an artist rather like Banksy. Naturally they're all live quite different lives and they're captured very well, being believable and very interesting. I enjoyed reading of Freddy's first steps into the English Premier League as his father tries to get used to an unfamiliar country, while Mary's story is certainly emotional as she struggles to come to terms with her mother's condition.

The mystery of the postcards never really gripped me, and I found that disappointing. It started well, but I soon lost interest. Even as it progresses this part of the plot never prompts the characters to feel more than concern about antisocial behaviour. But while the plot alone wouldn't have been enough to keep me hooked, the characters are varied, well-presented, and it's all very believable. Their individual stories kept me turning pages, and because of that I did enjoy reading Capital.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Marx's 6 May 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this proper novel - at first - and I thought - at first - that many of my fellow reviewers here were being a little churlish.

But there is a sense that it adds up to less than the some of its parts. In a large cast, some characters are more engaging than others (inevitably, I suppose, but must it really be inevitable?), and I did have to fight quite hard to stop myself skipping over the chapters concerning my least favourites.

I kept waiting to find out how things would go as and when the various lives began to intertwine ... but apart from a couple of near misses, they remained isolated from each other, even as they inhabited houses on the same street. Realistic in this at least.

The 'mystery' was feeble and inconsequential, as, in fact, to a greater or lesser extent, were the stories of all the inhabitants of Pepys Road.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great, unputdownable read. 16 Sept. 2013
The house prices in Pepys Road, South London, have risen to astronomical levels, making existing owners rich and excluding all but the wealthiest new buyers. Predictably,given its focus on this single street, a central character in the novel is banker Roger Yount. Other dramatis personae are surprisingly varied, including an Asian newsagent and his extended family, an elderly lady who has lived in Pepys Road all her life, a young Senegalese football star, a Polish builder, a Zimbabwean traffic warden who has been refused asylum in the UK, and an artist who thrives on his anonymity (clearly based on Banksy).

The novel is part 'whodunnit', as the police try to identify the sender of mysterious postcards and DVDs to the residents of the road. But as the punning title suggests, the book's central theme is money won or lost, made and spent. Lanchester's London is a giant casino in which careers either blossom or are blighted, fortunes turn and turn again.

Although some of the characters are vain, thoughtless or vulgar, there are few out and out villains in the book. Indeed the tone is perhaps more soft-hearted than I had expected and there are some fine comic creations, particularly Mrs Kamal, mother of the newsagent, with her facility for needling criticism. Yet even she is revealed to have hidden strengths when a family crisis demands the best from her. I see that other readers have found the novel too dependent on stereotypes but I feel that the author rounds out his characters enough for us to feel interested in them as individuals rather than as members of a category. The exception is perhaps Roger's wife, the vacuous and selfish Arabella, who appears to have few redeeming characteristics, her only interest in life to spend large chunks of her husband's income.

This may not be 'a great London novel' to match the work of such illustrious forebears as Trollope but it is certainly a great, unputdownable read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read - clever story line.
Published 8 hours ago by Tish
5.0 out of 5 stars It was wonderful. With good short chapters and very varied characters
It was wonderful. With good short chapters and very varied characters.
Published 7 days ago by Patricia
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
too many characters . A bit cliched
Published 19 days ago by barbara ann beaumont
4.0 out of 5 stars DIDNT QUITE GET THERE
Not sure what I expected of this book - maybe more radicalism , more intrigue or more drama ? I don't know . Read more
Published 25 days ago by The Cats Mother
4.0 out of 5 stars Topical read
Fascinating tale of life in a street in modern London.
Published 1 month ago by Hafren
5.0 out of 5 stars David Attenborough treatment for the Londoners
A lovely book, I am starting to feel saddened that it's coming closer to the end now that I am at chapter 64. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Yasemin
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Bought it because it had a good write up upon release but not the type of read I enjoy
Published 1 month ago by callum shaw`
1.0 out of 5 stars hated it
I was so irritated by this predictable and disgracefully stereotypical book, I was furious that I wasted time and eyesight reading it.
Published 1 month ago by Shelagh
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!
This book was recommended to me by an acquaintance at a supper party. I down loaded it on to my kindle, so came to it 'blind'! Read more
Published 2 months ago by SD
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Okay
Mixed feelings on this one. One of those stories about groups of loosely connected characters based on a London Street over a period of change. Read more
Published 2 months ago by PGH
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