Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
A great, unputdownable read.
on 16 September 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.