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Capital: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

John Lanchester
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)

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Book Description

One of the most talked about books of the year, Capital is a sweeping social novel by the writer hailed on the cover of the New York Times Book Review as “a brainy, pleasure-loving polymath.”


Celebrated novelist John Lanchester (author of The Debt to Pleasure) returns with an epic novel that captures the obsessions of our time. It’s 2008 and things are falling apart: Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers are going under, and the residents of Pepys Road, London—a banker and his shopaholic wife, an old woman dying of a brain tumor and her graffiti-artist grandson, Pakistani shop owners and a shadowy refugee who works as the meter maid, the young soccer star from Senegal and his minder—are receiving anonymous postcards reading “We Want What You Have.” Who is behind it? What do they want? Epic in scope yet intimate, capturing the ordinary dramas of very different lives, this is a novel of love and suspicion, of financial collapse and terrorist threat, of property values going up and fortunes going down, and of a city at a moment of extraordinary tension.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“An exceptionally capacious and involving tale about disparate lives in turmoil on London’s Pepys Road…. Lanchester makes us care deeply about his imperiled characters and their struggles, traumatic and ludicrous, as he astutely illuminates the paradoxes embedded in generosity and greed, age and illness, financial crime and religious fanaticism, immigration, exile, and terror. A remarkably vibrant and engrossing novel about what we truly value.” (Donna Seaman - Booklist)

“Searching, expert, on the money. I loved it.” (Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland)

“Effortlessly brilliant—gripping for its entire duration, hugely moving and outrageously funny.” (Observer (UK))

Capital comes in a great tradition of novels which are filled with the news of now, in which the intricacies of the present moment are noticed with clarity and relish and then brilliantly dramatized. It is clear that its characters, its wisdom, and the scope and range of its sympathy, will fascinate readers into the far future.” (Cólm Toibín, author of Brooklyn)

“Precise, humane and often hilarious, John Lanchester’s Capital teems with life. Its Dickensian sweep and its clear-eyed portrayal of the end of a strange era make this novel not only immensely enjoyable, but important, too.” (Claire Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children)

“Searching, expert, on the money.  I loved it.” (Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland­­­)

“As enrapturing as it is psychologically acute… Capital portrays an authentic slice of contemporary life on the eve of change in a way that recalls Franzen—with a welcome touch of wry humor.” (Bookpage)

“Brimming with perception, humane empathy and relish, its portrayal of this metropolitan miscellany is, in every sense, a capital achievement.” (Times on Sunday (UK))

“It is Lanchester’s gifts for observation and description that make Capital such a riveting read. It is a novel in which every few chapters a sentence will provoke an "I wish I had said that" reaction or, when it is a familiar thought, an: "I wish I had said that so well." … Above all, Lanchester should be applauded for a novel that is as readable as it is clever. He never attempts to prove his own intelligence, yet it oozes from every page.” (Evening Standard (UK))

“The book John Lanchester was born to write.” (The Guardian (UK))

Review

“Precise, humane and often hilarious, John Lanchester’s Capital teems with life. Its Dickensian sweep and its clear-eyed portrayal of the end of a strange era make this novel not only immensely enjoyable, but important, too.”
—Claire Messud
 
“Strikingly original…” 
The Guardian
 
“Lanchester makes us care deeply about his imperiled characters….A remarkably vibrant and engrossing novel about what we truly value.” 
Booklist
 
Capital [is] filled with the news of now, in which the intricacies of the present moment are noticed with clarity and relish and then brilliantly dramatized. It is clear that its characters, its wisdom, and the scope and range of its sympathy, will fascinate readers into the far future.”
—Cólm Toibín
 

Product Details

  • File Size: 689 KB
  • Print Length: 584 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0571234607
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 4, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007HX8CKI
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,282 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big, juicy story of "capital"... June 6, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The title of British author John Lanchester new novel, "Capital", could actually refer to two different meanings of the word "capital". Since the book is set in London, the "capital" of England, the title has that meaning, and as much of the story takes place in the City of London, where many of the banks and financial firms are located, the word "capital" could mean "money". Lanchester has written a big, brawling book about both meanings of the word.

Set during those uneasy times of 2007 and 2008, when the world economy was spiraling downward, the novel has 10 or so main characters, and about 10 secondary ones. All are tied together through a street in south London called Pepys Road, which began as a street of townhouses for middle class Britons in the early 1900s. The houses on the street have joined thousands of others in large cities that have been gentrified "up" as newly wealthy people have claimed the area. At the novel's beginning, only one of the houses is still occupied by a surviving descendent of the first owners. She is an 82 year old widow, now dying of a brain tumor. Most of the houses - with the exception of the widow's - have gone through extensive renovations to make them truly homes for the "new rich". One of these houses is owned by a banker in the City, Roger Yount, his wife Arabella, and their two young sons. Arabella - one of the few caricatures in the book - is a spend-it-as-fast-as-he-can-make-it sort of gal. She has full time staff but still considers herself to be overworked as a wife-and-a-mother. Roger - a decent sort - is caught up in the financial rat-race in the City, knows he's living way beyond his means, and is expecting a really big bonus for Christmas, 2007. So big, in fact, that the reader knows that money ain't in the offin'.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Novelistic Social Realism" June 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover
This book is very reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's "novelistic social realism" at its best, with a myriad of disparate but interlocking characters developed in depth as they confront the vicissitudes of modern life in a large bustling city. Several laugh-at-loud moments, interspersed with moving episodes of sorrow, avarice, despair, cynicism, rampant materialism and heartfelt humanity. Contains many "Britishisms" that may be unfamilar but which can be readily interpreted by the context. All-in-all, a satisfying reading experience very worthy of your attention.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling, Humorous Portrait of Londoners Lives June 16, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A residential street in London, Pepys Road, is the center of the universe in this diverse, humorous and empathetic novel by Londoner, John Lanchester.

The depth and breadth of characters make for an immersive reading experience.

Every other chapter switches from a wealthy City banker and his breadhead wife who seem to live beyond their means; to a Polish builder who takes pride in not being like a typical British builder and gets to do up a couple of Pepys Road properties. Then, there's the shadowy seeker of asylum who takes pride in handing out parking tickets, and the extended family from south Asia who own and operate the local store.

There are other real-world characters too, and Lanchester does a brilliant job of drawing us into their lives and experiences.

Set around the time of the impending global financial crisis in late 2008, Pepys Road and it's residents, nannies and building renovators aren't immune to London's imposing bureaucracy, soaring property prices, high cab fares and intimidating tube commutes. We also feel entangled in all the mess of doctors waiting rooms, egotistical lawyers and impossible insurance company executives, determined not to let you have your way, entirely.

And there's an undercurrent of menace in the streets. An unlikely criminal whose terrorizing the neighborhood with strange postcards and photographs of the owners properties. It gets bad enough that London's bobbies finally get involved doing interrogations and taking notes.

Capital is a fluid novel that never bores. Paced well, with frequent character and scene switches and with such depth, and with so much wit and humor, we can catch ourselves laughing out loud.

Whether you're a Londoner or not, Capital, is a worthy character-driven read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By Jackal
Format:Hardcover
Beautiful and realistic description of a set of diverse people living in London in 2008. Some are well off and some are poor. Their lives are intersecting slightly only because they all live in the same street in south London. The key weakness of this novel is the lack of a normal narrative. The author is so occupied with description in the first two thirds of the book that he forgets to think about the story line. The book picks up a bit of speed in its final third but the plot is not exactly moving forward. It is a shame that so realistically portrayed people engage in such a tepid storyline.

If you want a book with a strong storyline, give this book a pass. You would just feel really cheated in the end. If you want to have a realistic description of life in modern London, then seriously consider this book. Personally, I like a decent storyline so I cannot give the book more than two stars. Had the author paid some attention to actually telling a story this could have been a great book.

UPDATE: But in 2014 I still remember the book. It is the description that is so spot-on. Maybe I should give the book three stars/
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the best books I have read over the past year
Published 21 days ago by Cino
5.0 out of 5 stars entertaining read
this book is a very good reminder of the 2008 financial crash. the character development was wonderful and the story line kept you interested in a small community living on a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by France Webster
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book.
Great read.
Published 1 month ago by 40 Year Old Male
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully Written
The diverse cast of characters is a cross-section of London in '07 and '08, in the shadow of the looming financial collapse. Read more
Published 1 month ago by AnnaVee
3.0 out of 5 stars Challenging
rambling, weird and kind of unfulfilling.
Published 2 months ago by Jan L Edmonds
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific book!
A most enjoyable and successful novel -- big, sprawling, Thackerayesque. No pyrotechnics on display here; Lanchester is not Martin Amis, and some of the plot lines work better... Read more
Published 2 months ago by P. Stern
3.0 out of 5 stars OK
oops. Same title, different book than I expected. This is a novel and has nothing to do with the banking crisis of 2008. Read more
Published 2 months ago by CAT Lady
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts slow and ponderous but keep at it and you ...
Starts slow and ponderous but keep at it and you will be swept up in this slice of life story.
Published 3 months ago by Linda Kroner
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Superb read. Could not put this down.
Published 3 months ago by Russell Garbutt
1.0 out of 5 stars found this to be predictable. There was almost no ...
found this to be predictable. There was almost no style of writing and I abandoned it after about a third of the way through. Something I rarely do.
Published 3 months ago by susansteele
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More About the Author

John Lanchester is the author of the novels The Debt to Pleasure, Mr. Phillips, and Fragrant Harbor; and a memoir, Family Romance. He is a contributing editor at the London Review of Books and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Observer, and The Daily Telegraph, among others. Among several other prizes, including the Whitbread and Hawthornden Awards, Lanchester was awarded the 2008 E.M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.

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