Capital by John Lanchester
Set in 2008 at the height of the world financial crisis, Capital focuses on the fortunes of one street in London and the families and people that inhabit it. Through these characters, tensions about the financial collapse, a potential terrorist attack and even neighborly suspicion capture a grim portrait of a very tense London, and world surrounding it.
Reviewer: Lizzie Skurnick
"John Lanchester's brilliant Capital...has the distinction of being the first brick-and-mortar novel set squarely in our current times....One of the great delights of Capital is how Lanchester uses the book to show readers the sparkling strata of present-day London"
Reviewer: Claire Tomalin
"A few strands of the narrative don't quite work, but the best ones make you turn the pages faster to find out where they are going....He tells a good story. He gives you a lot to think about. This is an intelligent and entertaining account of our grubby, uncertain, fragmented London society that has almost replaced religion with shopping. Read it."
Reviewer: Dan Kois
"Capital never quite turns into that helicopter, carrying the reader off; its short chapters balk the plot’s forward motion...But in the end I wasn’t bothered by the book’s fitful momentum, because I thought of it less as a novel than as a series of diary entries by thoughtful characters whose lives, together, gave me a picture of contemporary London"
Reviewer: Dan Cryer
""Capital" is more sociological portrait than mystery novel. As short chapters dart back and forth between these characters, we get to know them better, if not well. They're hardly mere types, but the author rarely pauses long enough with any one of them for deep introspection....Issues, more than personalities, grab Lanchester's attention this time around."
Reviewer: Sam Sacks
"The sense is always that the author is building toward some greater whole, but many of the scenes are so weightless that it seems as if we are watching him fill a beach one grain of sand at a time....In the book's final sections, though, the reader's patience is rewarded, and the novel's design comes into view."
Reviewer: Liesl Schillinger
"Reading “Capital” is like getting a crash course in the transformation of British mores and class distinctions, which otherwise might require a decade of remedial Private Eye-reading to decode."
Reviewer: Robert Potts
"The writing is mostly underpowered, and sometimes sloppy....But there are some strong comic sections, and the treatment of family brings out the best in Lanchester..."
Reviewer: Theo Tait
"The main problem is that his characters never really transcend their origins; they play whatever structural role is allotted to them, and do little more than that....All in all, Capital is a diverting read. It holds your attention all the way to its strangely inconsequential ending, and will probably sell well. But if you want to read John Lanchester's great London novel, then read Mr Phillips."
Reviewer: Keith Miller
"There is a reticence, an austerity – to use a modish term – about the book that I very much liked....This impulse to inform also tends to inoculate Lanchester from the realist writer’s déformation professionelle, an urge to moralise. Yet some of the book’s “lessons”...seem a shade limited: limiting, even."
Reviewer: Toby Clements
"Capital is absorbing enough, but Lanchester is too subtle for this sort of thing, and where a bit of sturm und drang might have hit the spot, instead he gives us mild manners and grey skies."
Reviewer: Justin Cartwright
"The trouble is that there is something weightless about many of the characters....The result of this distance is that the reader doesn’t really care about the peripheral characters; they seem at times to be obstructing a perfectly good – even brilliant – story."
Reviewer: Ron Charles
"Despite his command with the excesses of the period, Lanchester seems unwilling to make us gasp, to confront us with the truly creepy things people will do when cursed by extreme poverty or absurd wealth. The result is a novel that, for all its variety, works from a fairly predictable palette."
Reviewer: Matt Kavanagh
"The novel’s characters seem oddly unaffected by one another, particularly in their encounters with others outside their own station....Whether this is simply a failure to capitalize on Capital’s early promise or a troubling sign of the challenges faced by the social novel in an age of growing inequality is hard to say."
Reviewer: Ben Hamilton
"On the shelf, Capital looks promising, bold, satisfyingly baggy. After finishing the book it resembles more of a failed project – well-intentioned but risible, empty, Millennium Dome-esque. We would have been foolish to expect the definitive fictional account of 21st century London, but Lanchester, in muffling the talents he has shown elsewhere, has managed to write a novel that is both amateurish and patronizing."