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Capital [Paperback]

John Lanchester
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (555 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 (555 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 403,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'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
263 of 288 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not the way we live now 28 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover
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
4.0 out of 5 stars People not plot 17 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
First of all let me be clear that this was a surprisingly gentle but fun read.

I'm not entirely sure why i bought this book. Probably the lure of a different author and a different atmosphere to my normal reads. However it was that i came by this, i can honestly say it was a very fortunate meeting!

I dont want to spoil any of the plot but i would just say that the synopsis blurb around the "You have what we want" campaign is slightly misleading. This part of the story is only really incidental to the fundamental story of the lives of the people who live and work in Pepys Road. Please dont buy if you are expecting any type of crime thriller. Instead, we are treated to a number of very different life stories; all of which are interesting and thought provoking in their own ways.

I didn't find this book especially funny either but it was captivating and charming. As i finished the book i thought of two things 1. I wish there was another book continuing the stories of these people i had come to know and 2. what else has he written?

If you finish a book and want more then thats got to be a good sign!

Well worth a read :)
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90 of 104 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining enough but...... 27 Feb 2012
By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Marx's 6 May 2013
By JK
Format:Paperback
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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable 1 Mar 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thought this was a wonderful book. Yes, it was peopled by characters and types that we all recognise (I think that's the point) but that didn't stop them from being full of life and energy. I was constantly reminded of people that I know from real life, not just the famous or sterotyped. And yes, Smitty is rather too like Banksy, but so what? It actually makes a point about the vaccuous nature of so much of modern 'conceptual art'.
The sympathetic characters were the unprentious ones, those scratching a living Like, 'Bogodan' (not even allowed his own name when working)and Matya; not the banker and his dreadful wife Arabella, nor even the awful Ms Strauss, a human rights lawyer who is in the game only for her own ends.
The truths that Lanchester tells about our asylum system and treatment of foreign workers are frighteningly apt. He touches on so many issues about contemporary life - not just what it is like to live in a big expensive house in London, but about the shallow nature of the things we hold dear, about the price of fame, the glorification of the football industry and the dangers that lie in wait for a kid who just wants to play football and have fun. The writer is most successful when allowing his characters to show that they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
A very appropriate novel for our times. I wonder if we will learn anything from it?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly good and gripping.
The Prologue has a strange dodgey start for me, with "always skips in roads" mentioned twice on the same page and people ordering "printer ribbons" from e-bay. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Ransen Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Read this.
Published 2 days ago by Indecision
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A great read
Published 7 days ago by missy- L-B
5.0 out of 5 stars Capital
This book grew and grew on me. There were times when I kept thinking "why doesn't he get on with the story? Read more
Published 7 days ago by Tweedledum
4.0 out of 5 stars and to me was ultimately the better read because it's such a...
A novel with a message. Will Thwaite's thriller 'The Valley' covers many of the same themes and geography, and to me was ultimately the better read because it's such a page-turner,... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Big on characters but not on plot.
The residents of Pepys Road start receiving postcards showing pictures of their house & the message "We Want What You Have". Read more
Published 10 days ago by Lorna
1.0 out of 5 stars I loved John Lanchester's The Debt to Pleasure (not to mention ...
I loved John Lanchester's The Debt to Pleasure (not to mention Mr Phillips) but I just don't get this book. Read more
Published 14 days ago by T. Quinn
3.0 out of 5 stars Capital Punishment?
Three stars is generous, because I'm from London and could see the familiarity of people and places, but plot loses pace, becomes too intermingled and cliched for my liking. Read more
Published 17 days ago by daveherts
4.0 out of 5 stars very readable
Readable and fun peek into the lives of those living on a London street. I enjoyed the descriptions of the consumerism. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Wild Mother
3.0 out of 5 stars What the Dickens?
At the start of this book I couldn't believe how Lanchester had managed to accurately capture middle-class London with a degree of wit and amusement. Read more
Published 22 days ago by JennyB
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