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Capital

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  10,415 Ratings  ·  1,227 Reviews
Celebrated novelist John Lanchester (“an elegant and wonderfully witty writer”—New York Times) 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 gra ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published June 11th 2012 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2012)
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Bobbie Darbyshire
I’ve formed the habit of checking on the one-star Amazon reviews (there are always some) of each book I read, to decide if I share their view. At time of writing, this book has 452 reviews and averages 4 stars, so what did the 25 odd-readers-out take exception to? Well, in summary they say (a) the characters are stereotypes, (b) it doesn’t have much story, and (c) it is padded with too many words. Do I agree? (a) No, this criticism in my view entirely misses the point. The cast is indeed chosen ...more
A.
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Lanchester had me hooked from page one of this 500-page novel. My expectation was that he was going to show us how the financial meltdown of 2008 effected the lives of the people on one London street. He does that to some extent, but what he really delivers is an intimate look at life right before the crash happened.

The people of Pepys Road are mostly upper and upper middle class folks and Lanchester takes us in and out of their houses in smoothly written prose that is just the right mix of
...more
Breakingviews
By Peter Thal Larsen

Banking is fiction’s hidden profession. Despite decades of financial expansion, novelists and playwrights have struggled to imagine a contemporary Shylock or Augustus Melmotte, the shadowy star of Anthony Trollope’s “The Way We Live Now”. A quarter of a century has passed since Tom Wolfe dreamt up Sherman McCoy, the bond trader who personified the arrogance and greed of an earlier boom in “The Bonfire of the Vanities”. With the crisis wreckage still smouldering, the character
...more
Rob
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Shelves: fiction
This book started of very promising. Set against the backdrop of a very wealthy London neighborhood just before (and during the beginning of) the financial crisis, the book explored the lives of several very different people. A banker, his selfish wife, a refugee, a soccer phenom imported from an African village, a dying woman, her daughter, a polish laborer, a family of Muslim immigrants, and a couple others.

I have to say, the first third of the book I was very into it. Plots were developing, c
...more
F.R.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first two definitions for ‘capital’ in the Oxford English Dictionary run thus:

Capital noun
1. The city or town that functions as the seat of government and administrative capital of the country or region: Warsaw is the capital of Poland.
* (with modifier) a place associated more than any other with a specified activity or product: the fashion capital of the world.
2. (mass noun) wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organisation or available for a purpose such as s
...more
Alan
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy titles which have layers of meaning. I enjoy the cleverness and I appreciate the sign-posting they provide so I can make sure that I don't miss a thread woven into the story. As layered titles go, John Lanchester's Capital isn't particularly difficult to penetrate: there is Capital as Money, and there is Capital as London and the fact that, to Lanchester, the first defines the second adds an admirable tidiness to the layers. All in all, it's a good title. The only problem is that it's be ...more
Larraine
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although it's early in the year, this novel is a finalist in my "favorite book of the year" contest. I hadn't read anything by John Lanchester before so I was unprepared for the elegance, humor and irony in the language. The book takes place in London, just before the economic collapse. We meet a wide range of characters centering around a street called Pepys Street that has recently become gentrified. The homes are bought by the up and coming who then pour lavish amounts of money to make the ho ...more
Amy
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a cool book! It follows the lives of the residents of a posh street in London around the time of the financial crisis. Although there is a bit of mystery at the heart of the novel, I was just fascinated by the peek inside the lives of the well-to-do--and the people who worked for them. I picked it up right before I went on vacation and it was the perfect airplane novel.
Tim
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is almost a pure delight. Sprawling in scope (the City, property, money, the upper-middle classes, the immigrant classes, sport, sport as business, work, love, and did I say property?), deeply insightful, and thoroughly engaging. It's set largely on the (fictionalized) Pepys Road (an inspired name), which affords Lanchester a view that is both microscopic and macroscopic:

"Over its history, almost everything that could have happened in the street had happened. Many, many people had fall
...more
Cathleen
Another masterful novel by Lanchester

I'm now officially a member of the John Lanchester fan club. I've read three of his novels: Mr. Phillips, The Debt to Pleasure and now Capital. What strikes me as remarkable about Lanchester's novels is that they are all so utterly different in topic and in tone, and I'd happily reread each one multiple times to relive the reading experience of being absorbed in the novel and in awe of his writing.

Capital is one of those luxuriously long, let-yourself-get-los
...more
Lisa
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book details the events and past history of several families in Pepys Road, Lambeth from late 2007 to late 2008. I liked most of the characters, my favourite probably being Ahmed and Roger. There's a woman nursing a dying relative, a lost fortune found, the ubiquitious Eastern European builders and nannies, the crash of the banking system, Muslim terrorism, the lazy spoilt wife of a banker and the Asian family working all the hours that Allah sends in their newsagent/mini-mart shop plus a l ...more
Meera
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not the definitive London novel, however hard it tries to be. I did enjoy reading it, but I think its pretty much a copy of the idea of Sebastian Faulks' A week in December, which does this same story better. A cross section across London society, cleverly encapsulated in the idea of people living in the same road and how their fortunes and misfortunes intertwine: the rich family in which the father works in the city, the poor pensioner who has lived in her house through the years to see it ...more
BookBully
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A great multi-character look at London in 2008. Lanchester is a master at delving into the stories of individual families living on a single street in the City. Recommended for readers who enjoyed "The Line of Beauty" by Alan Hollinghurst; "Crossing California" by Adam Langer; and the novels of Zadie Smith. Another case where I would have given 4.5 stars if it were possible on GoodReads....ahem!
Ben
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
In the late 1980s I went to an exhibition of the work of three of the great British architects of the twentieth century--Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and James Stirling. I think it was Rogers who was quoted as saying that cities exist for one reason only--as a place for people to meet. I've never forgotten that.

Capital is a book not so much about a city as about its people. Its epicentre is a south London street, Pepys Road--Everystreet, in all but name. Its dramatis personae are the street's r
...more
Jill
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Take Sebastian Faulks’ A Week in December, add in healthy dollops of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Hector Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries and you’ll have some idea what to expect from John Lanchester’s CAPITAL.

Like these other books, CAPITAL presents a panoramic view: in this case, of London at the cusp of a new and turbulent economic age. He focuses on a cross-section of residents and workers on a fictional and prestigious London treat including a well-heeled banker and his shopaholic
...more
Edmole
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this as it is set on a fictionalised Pepys Road, a couple of stone's throws from my new home in Brockley , moving to which from Finsbury Park has knocked a year off my life.


Pepys Road is one of the many places around London built to house the Lower Middle Class in Victorian Times which have got more and more valuable in the seemingly endless post war housing bubbleboom. It's a mystery, told from the perspective of a few residents of the road - someone is gently stalking the resi
...more
David Cheshire
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a bang up-to-date book written in an old fashioned way. Each chapter about half a dozen pages; each focuses on one of a cast of characters living in or linked to a single London street where houses have reached the million pound mark, even more with the extensive renovations done by the more prosperous. So we meet a lawyer, a footballer, a banker, a dying woman, her daughter, an asylum seeker, an immigrant Polish builder, a conceptual artist... As a "state of the nation" novel it sounds ...more
Ian Mapp
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Mr Phillips a long time ago... couldn't remember if I liked it or not. This book was getting good press and ideally suited for my tastes. London. State of the Nation. Comedy.

Lets give it a go.

It's a lengthy book in very short chapters and an incredibly simple premise. The inhabitants of a South London Street are receiving sinister, anonymous "we want what you have messages". Like that film where the owners are left videos of their house on the doorstep. I forget the name.

This allows us t
...more
Matthew Gaughan
I was hoping, given the title of the book and Lanchester's excellent series of essays in the LRB on the financial meltdown of 2007/08 and its consequences, that Capital would be a great novel about the partial collapse of neoliberal capitalism. Instead, its title is quite straightforward: it's a book about London. Money is a central theme, but it's a thin thread in a novel which is a sequence of short stories that hang together well but don't excite. There are far too many characters, each one a ...more
Sandra
Dec 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Capital: a town considered the governmental center, a serious offense, an asset, slang for "first rate", related to death or the death penalty. All of these are covered or, at least, referenced in John Lanchester's broad and detailed examination of the several stories set in London. The main setting is Pepys Road, that has now become attractive to "new money" folk who want a fashionable location.

Roger and Arabella Yount are the rich high-flyers who are clearly destined for a financial meltdown.
...more
Bridget
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A street in London, the people who live there, their lives, hopes, dreams, trials and all the things that influence their rise in fortune or their demise. I was only at the end of the second page when I realised that I had seen this as a TV series. I loved the show and I loved the book. Having seen the story, or should I say stories, played out on the screen, I had faces and impressions and it made it seem very real. I loved the circular way you meet the characters and follow along with them. I ...more
Loine
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite its wrist-breaking length, this is a highly enjoyable page-turner.
Lanchester takes the big theme of Capital, sets the scene in London in the build-up to the Global Financial Crisis, and zooms in on a single London residential street.
His focus brings an intimate, human scale to the bigger story being played out.
The terraced houses of Pepys Road were originally built to attract the lower middle class to an unfashionable area of London. But times have changed and the street has been gentrif
...more
Jim
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I nearly give this book the dreaded three star review, standing for middle of the road average. An easy enough read, this is a novel about London life as it might be for a lot of Londoners. If you know the city, it certainly feels authentic, and the characters have an integrity about them that pulls you through the plot when it would have been quite easy to allow them to be either stereotypes or caricatures. It's a close run thing though, and Lanchester just gets away with some of the portrayals ...more
NancyKay
Wanted to love this so much, and enjoyed it, and it kept my good-will throughout, BUT. There were too many characters, many of them not finely drawn enough; it was satirical but maybe not satirical enough; and by the end it was hard to either grieve or cheer for outcomes that felt curiously flat -- some characters seemed to get away too cleanly, and the suffering of others was somehow blunted by the essential cheeriness of the writing.

The book also disappointed in that it set up an expectation,
...more
JBEG
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an effortless read: the plotting is straight-up linear; the setting London in 2008 entirely familiar, the language and dialogue wonted. Reading it you feel the considerable amounts of pleasure that come from the well-rendered Contemporary Fiction factory (C.E.O. Jonathan Franzen.) There's even the de rigueur portrait of the female conspicuous consumer.

But there's something that runs counter to this stylistic banality: the novel has no plot. Sure, sure, there's the "who is sending the no
...more
Hugh
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2014
This book is a funny, warm and incisive dissection of London society at the time of the financial crisis of 2008. It is a loosely interlinked set of stories, and covers a wide range of characters. It is especially strong on the experiences of various have-not immigrants, and the amorality of the richer residents. Highly recommended.
Erica Mangin
I think the cover had made me underestimate this book. I'd also never heard of it or the author. But I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed this story of the various London folk connect by Pepys Road. The interweaving threads of the characters lives were cleverly put together to create a modern story of London that I couldn't put down. Top writing by Mr Lanchester. Highly recommend.
Ron Charles
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
“Capital,” John Lanchester’s too-big-to-fail novel about the financial crisis, sounds like an opportunity any sharp reader should invest in. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, of course, but this 50-year-old writer has been an illuminating chronicler of capitalism’s seizures.

In the London Review of Books, among other venues, he has written on everything from the global expansion of Kraft Foods to the future of newspapers (please, God). His greatest asset may be that he has no fo
...more
Clair Sharpe
As soon as I read the blurb for this, I realised I'd seen the serialisation that was on TV a couple of years ago. I couldn't really remember much of the detail so it didn't really spoil the book for me.
Set on Pepys Road, a street in London, that has become expensive to live in purely due to its locality, we meet quite a cast of characters, some who live on the road and some who have connections in other ways.
We have Roger & Arabella Yount, a couple who are well off but still live well beyond
...more
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North Yorkshire L...: TV Adaptation 3 23 Nov 26, 2015 04:06AM  
North Yorkshire L...: Reviews 1 7 Nov 03, 2015 01:32AM  
Pasadena Eclectic...: I found it 1 13 Sep 17, 2013 09:04PM  
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John Lanchester is the author of four novels and three books of non-fiction. He was born in Germany and moved to Hong Kong. He studied in UK. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and was awarded the 2008 E.M. Forster Award. He lives in London.
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“The person doing the worrying experiences it as a form of love; the person being worried about experiences it as a form of control.” 22 likes
“But knowing that you had gone wrong, and knowing how you had gone wrong, were not the same thing as knowing how to put it right.” 11 likes
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