Capital, by John Lanchester

Faber & Faber (2015), Paperback, 592 pages


Pepys Road is an average upper middle class street in London hovering on the brink of financial crisis in 2008. The inhabitants are a perfect cross-section of society – the banker in a mid-life crisis, his shopaholic wife  and their luscious Hungarian nanny, the Polish jobbing builder dreaming of the perfect woman and return to his homeland with money, the elderly widow dying of cancer and her careworn daughter, the Pakistani family running the corner store, who have unwittingly sheltered a jihadi, the Zimbabwean refugee working as a traffic warden, the young African on the brink of football stardom and his fish out of water father, and a host of other characters who swim in and out of the narrative as required. What links them together, and provides the central plot is that each is receiving unsigned postcards saying “We want what you have”. While the postcard campaign mounts in tempo, the residents deal with their own issues with varying degrees of success. And this, in the end, is what truly makes this book worth reading. the postcard plot is uninteresting the revelation of the culprits in the end is incredibly underwhelming, but along the way the reader will have been captivated by the different stories of the characters involved. For some, like Zbigniew the builder and his Hungarian sweetheart, the story ends happily, for others, like Roger the banker and Quentina the traffic warden, it doesn’t, but their stories bare captivating and will hold the reader’s attention to the end. This is a masterful piece of writing, the author has used a weak device to hold together a narrative where the protagonists really have little in common, and done a superb job of creating a very readable and absorbing novel. Well done.


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