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Customer Review

283 of 312 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not the way we live now, 28 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Capital (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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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Mar 2012 09:54:58 GMT
Couch potato says:
very good review, thank you. sounds like the type of book one enjoys reading, but at the end one thinks "Well, I could have written that!"

Posted on 14 Mar 2012 20:51:59 GMT
What a brilliantly written review. I have the book on order from the library and will give my verdict later, but your writing is excellent

Posted on 12 Jun 2012 16:50:39 BDT
christuart says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on 20 Jun 2012 11:14:07 BDT
Thank you for this review. You've managed to put into words the thoughts in my head that I couldn't quite express. Your second from last paragraph says it all.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 17:45:33 BDT
JoLo says:
Try If nobody speaks of remarkable things by Jon McGregor. Capital reminds me of the book but is nowhere near as good as McGregor's images of everyday life.

Posted on 18 Feb 2013 18:44:38 GMT
G. Palmer says:
Just finished "Capital" and you have hit the nail on the head.....i couldn't quite figure out why it didn't grab me as the premise seemed attractive. Great review...."Donaghadee", i live there!

Posted on 4 Apr 2013 17:43:57 BDT
Sofakat says:
What a relief to read a review of a book by someone who can really write. Told me what I needed to know.

Posted on 24 Apr 2013 16:49:24 BDT
I couldn't agree less! This book is written with a deceptively light touch and the portraits of the protagonists are wonderfully insightful. Lanchester has managed to describe people warts and all and yet still make them likeable- I really wanted to know what happened to them.

So don't be put off by this review! This book is rewarding and I suspect will in fact endure as a description of London life as it is now, and as a work of art.

Posted on 25 Nov 2015 11:23:40 GMT
I think you've rather got this back to front. The fact that you find the characters and the settings so familiar is testament to Lanchester's observational and writing skills. The characters and their stories are believable and human but never fall into cliché and that is the genius of Lanchester's book.
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