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Capital: A Novel Paperback – May 28, 2013

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Capital: A Novel + How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say—And What It Really Means + I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay
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Editorial Reviews


“Delightful. . . . Fresh, astutely observed, and a lot of fun.” (Sebastian Smee - Boston Globe)

“Brilliant.” (Lizzie Skurnick - NPR Books)

“Full of spectacular comedy—and menace. . . . The effect is like one of those cut-away illustrations that show the interior of every room in an apartment complex.” (Ron Charles - Washington Post)

“A big, funny, sure-footed novel . . . rich in observation and warm in spirit.” (Dan Kois - Slate)

“Like getting a crash course in the transformation of British mores and class distinctions. [A] nuanced portrait of a country in flux.” (Liesl Schillinger - New York Times Book Review)

“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)

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)

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

“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)

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

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393345092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393345094
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

UPDATE: But in 2014 I still remember the book.
The book is interesting, characters exceptionally well developed, and the author has effectively captured an era we have yet to recover from.
Thomas Grover
Mr. Lanchester has created a cast of characters worthy of a Dickens novel.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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 By Cary B. Barad on 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 By Neville Samuels on 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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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jackal on August 30, 2012
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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