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Capital by John Lanchester
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Capital (original 2012; edition 2012)

by John Lanchester

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7194313,085 (3.85)85
Member:othurtle
Title:Capital
Authors:John Lanchester
Info:Faber and Faber Fiction (2012), Edition: 1st Edition 2nd Printing, Kindle Edition, 592 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Novel

Work details

Capital by John Lanchester (2012)

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English (40)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
We Want What You Have..... the residents of Pepys Road are targeted by a campaign of cards with pictures their front doors on them. Then we get meet the people behind the doors, I won't go into analyzing the characters except to say they all want more than they have. Some with good reason.

I enjoy books about London even though I don't live there anymore, and have to say this book spent some time on my Kindle before I started it but its one book that I would read again. ( )
  paperlesspages | May 3, 2016 |
The stories of some of the inhabitants of Pepys Road, London, whose houses are worth a lot of money and who start receiving postcards with the message "We Want What You Have" written on them. This campaign becomes more sinister, but, for me at least, the campaign was the most forgettable thing about the novel; indeed I did forget all about it from time to time. The narrative switches between different characters including an ineffectual City banker and his appalling wife, his malicious deputy at work, their Hungarian nanny, and their Polish builder. Then there is Petunia, who is dying of a brain tumour, her daughter, her Banksy-like artist grandson, her grandson's assistant and the assistant's girlfriend. The third main cluster is the Kamal family, who run the corner shop, consisting of three brothers (one with a family) and their nightmare mother from Lahore.

I found the other storyline surrounding Freddy the football player fairly interesting, but he never really seemed to belong to Pepys Road and Quentina's story was barely linked to the others' at all. It was also sadder than seemed appropriate for the book as a whole. I found this novel very readable, but I had to take regular breaks because it was unrelentingly depressing and sad. There were tiny occasional flashes of humour, but mainly the story consisted of bad things happening to people. While they sometimes deserved what they got, they were usually passive victims of circumstances and the decisions of others, which was frustrating. I had high hopes for some comedy from the visit of Mrs Kamal, but the story went in another direction.

Very British - the entire prologue consists of a discussion of property price fluctuations and I have to admit it drew me in! ( )
  pgchuis | May 3, 2016 |
Imagine a Hummingbird Cam, flying around and over an older residential street somewhere in London, buzzing the houses, darting randomly from one to another, swooping in low and hovering for a brief period, then abruptly lifting up and away to another distraction. That’s what reading this book is like.

This panoramic novel unfolds during 2008 over the beginning of the financial meltdown. It is set on the fictional street of Pepys Rd (Lanchester said he based it on streets in his own residential area of Clapham, London, which has been “bankerised” by the wealthy who commute to the City), in the Capital city of London. The residents include a wealthy trader and his obscenely entitled wife, a Muslim family running the local shop (and given the stereotypes in the book, one fears that the token Muslim family has a strong chance of leading to either terrorism or false accusations of such later in the book), a dying old lady, a Polish tradesman serving up his labour for the wealthy, a couple of recent immigrants from Africa, and several others. They all have different story lines, and the chapters hop around back and forth visiting and revisiting the characters. They are pulled together by the common thread of all receiving mysterious messages in various forms, all saying “We Want What You Have”.

There are so many characters that they tend to feel either a bit flat and anonymous, or else outlandishy cartoonish, as with the wealthy wife Arabella. Some of them, such as the Zimbabwean refugee traffic warden, who has a degree in political science, are showing the edges of a potentially really interesting story, but there just isnt time for follow through.

The writing is serviceable but often plodding: “Arabella knew that if she drank any more she would have a hangover and part of the point of being in this luxury spa was to go home looking and feeling fabulous, so she went to her room and read a novel set in Afghanistan until she realised she had fallen asleep twice already, and so she put the book down and turned out the light.” Cliches (“Shit flows downhill”) occasionally intrude, weakening the structure.

Most of the characters themselves want what someone else has. Some of them think they are in control of their lives, but so many extrinsic forces can distort the course of lives that sometimes free will seems only illusory. Given the time period, we know that the financial crisis, and the flow of financial capital is going to play a significant role in the book. It is also about the social capital too. Slowly we do become at least a bit invested in some of the characters, and this keeps the pages turning.

This is being widely touted for the Booker longlist, to be announced next week. It will be interesting to see if it makes it.
3 1/2 stars, generously rounded up. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Really got hooked by this. The ostensible plot regarding the mysterious postcards that all the inhabitants of Pepys Rd were receiving was a yawn and in the end the revelation of who was responsible and why was a massive anticlimax, but that didn't matter, because its only purpose was to hook you into the lives of the streets inhabitants and make you care about them. Masterful piece of writing. ( )
  drmaf | Apr 18, 2016 |
Capital by John Lanchester - very good

This was everything that One Week in December (Sebastian Faulks) wasn't. A similar premise: we're following the lives of a selection of Londoners from December 2007 through to August 2008. In this case we're following the residents of an affluent suburban street: Pepys Road. We're introduced to them and watch their lives as the economic meltdown commences. During this time, they're also all in receipt of anonymous postcards with the message "We want what you have".

All the characters are well written and mostly empathetic. I certainly wanted to know what happened to them and even after the finishing the book, I wondered about various outcomes and what would have happened next. Ok, some of them are stock characters: the Pakistani family that run the corner shop, the wealthy banker and his horrible wife, pretty nanny & small children, the Polish builder, the little old lady etc etc. But I wanted to know if Zbigniew would manage to salvage his nest egg & go home to Poland, if Quentina would get a visa, if the horrible Arabella would get her cum-uppance.

Secondary was the mystery of the postcards and who & why they were being sent. I kind of guessed, but not until close to the end of the book was I partially proved right.

One thing: I was surprised there wasn't more about the financial side of things. When I heard John Lanchester speak at the EdBookFest last year, I got the impression there was more to the book. He mentioned having done so much research that he'd had to write a second, factual, book (Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay) about what happened and why, so I expected there to be more included in this book. Having said that, after Sebastian Faulks 'Janet & John do hedge fund management' (thanks again to Pauline for that one!) it's probably for the best.

Well worth reading.
( )
1 vote Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Alle Bewohner der Pepys Road suchen nach ihrem Glück: Roger Yount ist ein erfolgreicher Banker - mit zwei Kindern und einer verwöhnten Ehefrau. Dass er nicht die erwartete 1 Million Pfund Jahresprämie erhält, stürzt die Familie in eine Krise. Nebenan zieht die senegalesische Fußballhoffnung Freddy Kamo mit seinem Vater ein - wird ihm der internationale Durchbruch in einem Premier-League-Club gelingen? Petunia Howe lebte schon in der Pepys Road, als diese noch eine einfache Arbeiterstraße war. Pakistanische Kioskbesitzer stehen unter Terrorverdacht, die nigerianische Politesse ohne Arbeitserlaubnis schreibt Strafzettel und der polnische Handwerker Zbigniew liebt die Frauen, und die Frauen lieben ihn. An einem ganz normalen Tag liegt bei allen stolzen Eigenheimbesitzern dieser Straße eine merkwürdige Nachricht im Briefkasten: »Wir wollen, was ihr habt.« Ein Roman voller Mitgefühl, Humor und Protagonisten, die man nicht mehr missen möchte.
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At first light on a late summer morning, a man in a hooded sweatshirt moved softly and slowly along an ordinary-looking street in South London.
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Residents of Pepys Road in London receive odd, anonymous postcards demanding "We Want What You Have" during the financial meltdown of 2008.

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