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Capital [Paperback]

John Lanchester
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (525 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2012

Pepys Road: an ordinary street in the Capital. Each house has 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.

At forty, Roger Yount is blessed with an expensively groomed wife, two small sons and a powerful job in the City. 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 in the Capital, Zbigniew has come from Warsaw to indulge the super-rich in their interior decoration whims. Freddy Kano, teenage football sensation, has left a two-room shack in Senegal to follow his dream. Traffic warden Quentina has exchanged the violence of the police in Zimbabwe for the violence of the enraged middle classes. For them all, this city offers the chance of a different kind of life.

Capital is a post-crash state-of-the nation novel told with compassion and humour, featuring a cast of characters that you will be sad to leave behind.

Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571234615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571234615
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (525 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

From the bestselling author of Whoops!: A post-crash, state-of-the-nation novel told with compassion, humour and truth

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
260 of 283 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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit different but very average! 4 Oct 2013
I chose to read this book because it was recommended by one of the book clubs that I look at from time to time. I've since seen it described by another reviewer as a 'slice of life' novel and that sums it up perfectly. The novel follows the lives of a number of residents all living in the same street in London. You get all the hum drum ordinariness of everyday living, but alongside that there is something strange going on which affects all of the residents. I thought it was an interesting concept and certainly the ethnic and cultural diversity of London is well captured. But, it was a bit long and a bit slow.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Offers more than it delivers 24 Jun 2012
By Douglas
Given all the hype that surrounded the publication of `Capital' - "state of the nation" book (whatever that means), etc. - and which I followed closely, I couldn't help but think it offered much more than it delivered. The novel seemed overly contrived and in the end rather inconsequential. The underlying theme of the story - the dark and threatening "We Want What You Have" campaign - became uninteresting and peripheral to the lives of the varied characters, and by the end the story just fizzled out. I'm a big fan of John Lanchester and have read most of his fiction and non-fiction, and follow his excellent journalistic economics articles in the London Review of Books. However, while `Capital' isn't bad, and is certainly well written, I found it disappointing. For me his touching memoir `Family Romance' is the best thing he's written but, strangely, rarely mentioned in any assessment of his work.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By J. Hind
For the entire first half of this novel (577 pages, 106 chapters!) I clung to the hope that Lanchester was - very, very slowly - setting up the novel promised in the blurb, by the clever title, and hinted at by the quoted reviews (as usual the reviewers do not actually seem to have read much beyond the aforementioned blurb!). Passing the half-way mark the truth suddenly dawned - this is all we are going to get, introductions to a bunch of rather boring imaginary friends!

Stereotype characters are perfectly acceptable in a 'state of the nation', but they need to be touched in stereotypical ways by the major themes of the age to illuminate the greater societal truth. Or it is fun to subvert our expectations by launching a stereotype on a very particular, unexpected course illustrating the particularity of real lives and the commonality of human experience underneath the superficial differences. Trouble is Lanchester does neither: his stereotypes follow exactly the trajectory you are expecting but then either crash into the ground short of the destination or whistle past the target close enough to touch it but never striking home. Only the storyline about the Zimbabwean traffic warden really lands with a hard-hitting critique of the absurd and cruel asylum system. I won't spoil what little plot there is by itemising the other four anticlimaxes, suffice it to say if Lanchester had set this in 1944 we'd have seen a soldier training for D-day and then on June 5th he'd have tripped over a termite mound and ended up hearing about the landings from his hospital bed!

All of which could have been redeemed by good writing, but Lanchester gives an unimaginative, linear, third-person 'God perspective', past tense, narrative with absolutely no ambiguity, subtlety or tension.
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89 of 103 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining enough but...... 27 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I liked John Lanchester's previous book Whoops and was looking forward immensely to Capital. It had been hailed as possibly the State of the Nation novel of the decade.

Capital is a diverting enough read but it lacks the insight and incisiveness that you would hope for from a really good book. The plot involves a myriad of characters linked to addresses in Pepys Road. Unfortunately many of these come over as stereotypes - the greedy banker, the selfish wife, the hard-working Pole, the devout Muslims, the heroic refugee. The writing is good but far from brilliant.

One problem is that Capital is not different enough from similar novels published recently - such as Sebastian Faulks' A Week in December or Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig. Although it is an entertaining book but I was disappointed as I was expecting something more.

I am sure there is a State of the Nation novel of the decade somewhere - but this isn't it.

(I dithered about the star rating - would have opted for 3 and a half so erred on the side of kindness!)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Capital
Great depiction of all walks of life in London coupled with the author's real back for bringing description to life.
Published 1 day ago by Charlotte
5.0 out of 5 stars A very satisfying read
A tale of numerous characters living very different lives but bound by geography and by a single plot thread. Read more
Published 3 days ago by GreenDC
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
The underlying mystery linking the very different lives of the various characters in the story is what knits this book together. clever, witty and I recommend it - it's quirky!
Published 3 days ago by Mandyfab
2.0 out of 5 stars Other authors have done better critiques.
The premise of the book that it describes / critiques aspects of a modern atomised social life in London is partially fulfilled in the different characters and storylines and a... Read more
Published 13 days ago by PBatBP
5.0 out of 5 stars London as it really is today
Totally authentic story giving a real flavour of multi-cultural London. Readers will look back on it in a few years time and say " Yes, that's what it was like. Read more
Published 18 days ago by John Fryer
2.0 out of 5 stars Got bored and gave up
Before I even got a third of the way through. I don't usually abandon books, but there was just nothing to keep me reading here..
Published 1 month ago by D.Cornwell-Kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars An indepth view of modern London
I thought the use of one established road as a device to take a snapshot of 21st century capitalism in London was a good idea but in the event very few households were included in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs R A Clow
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and modern
A witty picture of a modern suburbian street where all of the characters have their twisted slant on modern materialistic life.
Published 1 month ago by David Robert Piper
4.0 out of 5 stars A panoramic view
A semi-Dickensian account of London in the period around the time of the banking crisis. We meet characters from every stratum in society and are carried along by the interlocking... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Will
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Enjoyed the writing and easily identified with the characters. It's not really a story as such but more a study of the human character. Well written and easy to follow.
Published 1 month ago by mr s h cripwell
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