Amongst the books I’ve read this month is John Lanchester’s Capital. It’s set in London leading up to the financial crisis (2007-08), focusing particularly on the residents of a fictional Pepys Road, not the real one. The houses themselves are almost as important characters as the people you’ll see mentioned in the blurb…
“The residents of Pepys Road, London – a banker and his shopaholic wife, an elderly woman dying of a brain tumour, the Pakistani family who run the local shop, the young football star from Senegal and his minder – all receive an anonymous postcard with a simple message: We Want What You Have.
Who is behind it? What do they want?
As the mystery deepens, the world around Pepys Road is turned upside down by the financial crash and all of its residents’ lives change beyond recognition over the course of the next year.”
The story begins “At first light on a late summer morning…” with a mysterious man creepily filming the houses of Pepys Road. The prologue kick-starts the chain of unsettling events that link the characters together.
Capital goes on to introduce a wealth of very different characters. Just to mention some of them there’s Roger Yount the banker and his family; Mary, whose mother is dying of cancer; Freddy the footballer from Senegal; and an artist rather like Banksy. Naturally they’re all live quite different lives and they’re captured very well, being believable and very interesting. I enjoyed reading of Freddy’s first steps into the English Premier League as his father tries to get used to an unfamiliar country, while Mary’s story is certainly emotional as she struggles to come to terms with her mother’s condition.
I was never really gripped by the mystery of the postcards, and I found that disappointing. It started well, but I soon lost interest. Even as it progresses this part of the plot never prompts the characters to feel more than concern about antisocial behaviour. But while the plot alone wouldn’t have been enough to keep me hooked, the characters are varied, well-presented, and it’s all very believable. Their individual stories kept me turning pages, and because of that I did enjoy reading Capital. It gets three stars from me.