Are you like me and always read the acknowledgements and author biography? I love seeing who is thanked, who is loved and who is appreciated. “Thanks to my creative writing class” always makes me feel a bit nervous, but an author thanking family and friends warms my heart. The other thing I like to look at is the author photo. This brings me to John Lanchester, author of Capital, he has an interesting friendly face and I immediately wanted to enjoy his book , and enjoy it I did.
Lanchester uses Pepys Street, a fictional street in London to introduce us to a multitude of people who either live, visit or work within its boundaries. Pepys Street houses are the domain of the upwardly mobile, but the people who work there – nannies, shop owners, builders or meter readers – are new immigrants. This book contains a huge number of characters which could be off-putting, but it is worth persevering as each character is finely detailed and it doesn’t take long to have a vested interest in each of their lives.
The title is a clever link to London being a capital city and the capital within in, both in human and financial terms. The common link is that each household starts receiving flyers saying “We want what you have”, and the mystery behind these increasingly sinister messages is one of the intrigues that holds this book together, alongside the disparity between those who own the houses and those who work for them, those who are English-born and or are new to the country, those who control the city finances and those who reap the cash rewards or who suffer the consequences of bad decisions.
Capital is a big book about big topics. I became involved in each character’s story, but I especially enjoyed the Banksy like character, and the local Indian shop-owner’s family, both of whom become implicated in the mysterious fliers. It is a book that is worth taking time to come to grips with, and it would be a good candidate for a mid winter holiday read.
- John Lanchester will be a guest at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival 30 August – 2 September 2012.