By John Lanchester.
Besides living in the same road, what do the residents of Peyps Road, in London, have in common?
They are all very different people, living very different lives but they have all received a postcard with just five words on it: We want what you have.
The story takes place over a relatively long period, starting in 2007 and running on through the financial crash and beyond. It tells, sometimes in quite intricate detail, of the travails of a yuppie banker who isn’t so young (uppie?) and his spendthrift wife. There is an old lady who had owned her home since before the prices spiralled away from mere mortals, a Pakistani family running the local shop and a young footballer. These residents are at various times visited by a selection of nannies, workmen, traffic wardens and police, together with a selection of other miscreants passing through.
The book was adapted to a BBC television series, which was widely praised, as was the book itself. I haven’t seen the series (hope to catch the repeat) but on the basis of my reading of the book, I would think it was made as an ensemble drama.
The characters I’ve mentioned above are just a few of the people we meet in Peyps Road. There are a lot to keep track of in a relatively long book. Each of the characters’ had their own story line, interplaying with each other to greater and lesser degrees. At least two of the characters, Quentina the traffic warden, and Bogdan the Builder, as the bankers wife calls him, could be omitted entirely, or reduced to cameo appearances, without significant detriment to the overarching storyline.
I found Capital to be humorous, without being laugh out loud. It provides a look at a contemporary situation, from a number of different perspectives, from the uppie banker to a jobbing tradesman.
It is readable and easy to pick up and put down, due to its short chapters, however you have to be able to switch story threads between the players and remember where they were half a dozen chapters before, when their next chapter comes up. I guess the short chapters are fine for a reader with a short attention span.
“It was a mystery to Roger how someone he knew so well
could be such an impervious, impenetrable stranger.”