Capital: A Novel

Capital: A Novel

3.5 8
by John Lanchester
     
 

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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

Overview

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

Boston Globe
Delightful. . . . Fresh, astutely observed, and a lot of fun.— Sebastian Smee
NPR Books
Brilliant.— Lizzie Skurnick
Washington Post
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
Slate
A big, funny, sure-footed novel . . . rich in observation and warm in spirit.— Dan Kois
New York Times Book Review
Like getting a crash course in the transformation of British mores and class distinctions. [A] nuanced portrait of a country in flux.— Liesl Schillinger
Bookpage
“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.”
Times on Sunday (UK)
“Brimming with perception, humane empathy and relish, its portrayal of this metropolitan miscellany is, in every sense, a capital achievement.”
Evening Standard (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.
The Guardian (UK)
The book John Lanchester was born to write.
Booklist
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
Observer (UK)
Effortlessly brilliant—gripping for its entire duration, hugely moving and outrageously funny.
Sebastian Smee - Boston Globe
“Delightful. . . . Fresh, astutely observed, and a lot of fun.”
Lizzie Skurnick - NPR Books
“Brilliant.”
Ron Charles - Washington Post
“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.”
Dan Kois - Slate
“A big, funny, sure-footed novel . . . rich in observation and warm in spirit.”
Liesl Schillinger - New York Times Book Review
“Like getting a crash course in the transformation of British mores and class distinctions. [A] nuanced portrait of a country in flux.”
Cólm Toibín
“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.”
Claire Messud
“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.”
Joseph O’Neill
“Searching, expert, on the money. I loved it.”
Boston Globe - Sebastian Smee
“Delightful. . . . Fresh, astutely observed, and a lot of fun.”
NPR Books - Lizzie Skurnick
“Brilliant.”
Washington Post - Ron Charles
“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.”
Slate - Dan Kois
“A big, funny, sure-footed novel . . . rich in observation and warm in spirit.”
New York Times Book Review - Liesl Schillinger
“Like getting a crash course in the transformation of British mores and class distinctions. [A] nuanced portrait of a country in flux.”
Colm Toibin
“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.”
Time Magazines on Sunday (UK)
“Brimming with perception, humane empathy and relish, its portrayal of this metropolitan miscellany is, in every sense, a capital achievement.”
Joseph O'Neill
“Searching, expert, on the money. I loved it.”
Ron Charles
…[Lanchester] has combined his fiction-writing artistry with a reporter's expertise to capture the financial biodiversity of London in 2008…Lanchester seems to know the colorful minutiae of everybody's business. He swings from deep sympathy for a Zimbabwean refugee waiting for asylum to tart satire of a financier anticipating his bonus. The effect is like one of those cut-away illustrations that show the interior of every room in an apartment complex.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Lanchester (The Debt to Pleasure) follows on the heels of 2010’s I.O.U., a nonfiction dissection of the great recession, by covering much of the same territory in this barely allegorical study of class conflict and reversal of fortune. The affluent residents of London’s Pepys Road suburb are a handy cross-section of late-2007 types: Roger Yount, a banker riding high and counting on his bonus to cover mortgages and the needs of his spoiled wife; Shahid, the son of Pakistani immigrants working the family shop; the 17-year old soccer prodigy Freddy Kamo; Quentina Mkfesi, an educated Zimbabwean refugee turned traffic warden; the elderly Petunia Howe, living repository of Pepys Road’s postwar rise; and Petunia’s grandson, a Banksy-type artist named Smitty. This is just a sample of the cast, most of whom begin receiving mysterious cards reading “We Want What You Have.” Like clockwork, the quality of life on Pepys Road goes south, with arrests, injuries, illnesses, and financial undoing. But it’s hard to care, with predictable and seldom insightful plot threads, and Lanchester reducing his characters to their socio-economic parameters as surely as the market itself. The result is an obsequious, transparent attempt at an epochal “financial crash” novel that is as thin as a 20-dollar bill. Agent: Caradoc King, AP Watt. (June)
Library Journal
The elderly Patricia Howe has a grandson named Smitty who does famously anonymous artworks in the public sphere that border on vandalism. Roger Yount, who works in the City, will likely go broke if he doesn't get an expected million-pound bonus, even as his shallowly consumerist wife plans her own Christmas getaway and hires ambitious Polish worker Bogdan (really named Zbigniew) to do more home improvements. Michael "Mickey" Lipton-Miller rents a house to a promising young football star from Senegal and his dad, while down the street Ahmed Kamal runs a shop with the help of family that includes dreamy pretend-rebel brother Shadid. Meanwhile, Quentina, an educated woman from Zimbabwe, hands out parking tickets but as an illegal keeps her head down. What do they have in common? They're all associated with Pepys Road in South London, where residents have been receiving vaguely ominous postcards saying "We Want What You Have." And their stories crash together in painful ways, sometimes because of the cards. VERDICT Lanchester (The Debt to Pleasure) weaves together multiple stories in an uncanny microcosm of contemporary British life that's incredibly rich and maybe just a bit heavy, like a pastry. Yet definitely worth a look. [See Prepub Alert, 12/5/11.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Elegant, elegiac, eloquent novel of London life in the time when things lolly-related are definitively beginning to fall to pieces. Pepys Road was once such a nice street, a place destroyed by a V-2 rocket in World War II and rebuilt in such a way that aspirational veterans and young people could buy a stake in the British Dream. But that was then. Now, in 2007, after boom and bust and boom and bust, in a time of "bonuses which were big multiples of the national average salary, and a general climate of hysteria [that] affected everything to do with house prices"--well, only the rich can afford to buy in, and the old-timers are increasingly besieged. One of them is the well-heeled and pound-laden banker around whom Lanchester's (Fragrant Harbor, 2002, etc.) novel, as leisurely and complex as an Edith Wharton yarn, turns. But even he is much put-out, since his wife can't seem to get it in her head that money is not simply a thing to be spent at every waking moment. Meanwhile, from out in the darkness, messages are raining down, vaguely threatening, saying, "We want what you have." Ah, but practically everyone in this book wants everything, and those who don't want at least something that they don't have, from lost youth to a little peace and quiet. Who are the authors of these mystery demands? One thing that DI Mill (think, fleetingly, of John Stuart) concludes is that, first, they're not Nigerians or Kosovars or Eskimos, and second, though capable of better things, he's glad to have the distraction, even if "when he was doing routine repetitive work, that it was the equivalent of harnessing a racehorse to a plough." Mill finds plenty to do, and so does Roger, our banker, who's got a financial empire to save on top of his own bankbook and marriage. An expertly written novel of modern manners, with moments that read as if David Lodge or Malcolm Bradbury had stepped out of academia to take on the world of money and power.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393345094
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
05/28/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
384,170
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet 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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Capital: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. Characters you care about, with some very unsympathetic but interesting none the less. Very strong parallel stories without a hard-to-believe coming together where everyone's in the same room or something. I feel the author did a great job of understanding the souls of people from very different walks of life. Higly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down, literally. I got up in the middle of the night because I just had to finish it. Characters were amazingly real, and I found myself rooting for them. I work in the financial sector in NY rather than London, but it's the same, it seems, because he captured it exactly right.
MWgal More than 1 year ago
A worthwhile read; a good snapshot of greed and materialism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book and easy read. One of the best books I read in 2013.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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LAWonder More than 1 year ago
I think CAPITAL was lacking in most areas - adventure, mystery, intrigue, drama. The language was crude. Suspense was simply not there. There were too many characters involved for just one book. That said, the characters were, however, very well defined and separated so it was not that hard to recount who was being discussed. The author has talent but needs to add a smooth flow and energy to his writing. Many of us would appreciate 'cleaner' language. It can be accomplished by tactfully alluding to the words and crses without actually using them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(((& g