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Capital: A Novel Hardcover – June 11, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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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))

About the Author

John Lanchester is the author of Capital, a novel, and I.O.U., a New York Times best-selling book on the financial crisis. A regular contributor to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, he lives in London.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393082075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393082074
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
I've seen some complaints that this novel has no plot. I don't think that's true, though the storytelling here isn't conventional. I think of this more as a multi-threaded fable of lives in London during the "Noughties;" that is, the 2000s. This was a period when certain people in the financial markets made unthinkably huge amounts of money, spent it lavishly and helped up drive up the cost of living in what was already the most expensive city in the world. It was also a period of great uncertainty, with terrorism on the rise, immigration policies in crisis and, toward the end of the decade, the collapse of many large financial institutions.

Pepys Road is a microcosm of the uneasy relationship between the world of modern wealth and the rest of London. Resident Roger Yount represents the 1-percenters. He's the manager of the foreign exchange trading department at investment bank Pinker Lloyd and, as we begin, is trying to calculate whether his annual bonus is likely to reach one million pounds. He feels he not only deserves it, but he needs it. His wife, Arabella, spends lavishly on decorating and redecorating their Pepys Road house and their country house, clothing and accessories, dining and entertainment and the merry-go-round of nannies for the two boys.

Not everyone in the road is a 1-percenter. There is the Pakistani market on the corner and the large Kemal family that lives above it and runs it; Petunia, the widow who has lived in Pepys Road for 50 years, since the street was a very ordinary middle-class neighborhood; Mickey, the football manager, who is letting his house to Freddie, the new 17-year-old Senegalese player for London's Arsenal team, along with Patrick, Freddie's father.
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