What better book to read whilst in London than Capital by John Lanchester? I know, I know, I could have chosen other iconic novels like White Teeth by Zadie Smith or Brick Lane by Monica Ali, but I went with Capital for two main reasons: the financial meltdown of 2008 and it was on my TBR list. It should also be noted that I was meant to read White Teeth while I was in London as well, but I ran out of time.
To start, everything I had heard about Capital was marvelous – and true. It is a gripping tale that weaves together a number of themes prominent in contemporary life in London. Inflating house prices and property values, racism, the treat of terrorism, Banksy, immigrants, yummy mummies, the list goes on and on. These themes are woven into the fine tapestry that is the quiet, residential street Pepys Road in South London. The story is told by the various people who inhabit this road: a meter maid, a construction worker, a banker and his wife, and aging widow and the family that keeps the shop at the end of the block.
What impressed me most about the book is how Lanchester captured a moment in history so perfectly. The story is set after the 7/7 bombings and during the financial meltdown of 2008. It reminded me of one of my favourite books, The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. It is also set in London and captures 1980s, Thatcher-ite Britain perfectly. Both novels are complex, but also plot driven.
Who would like this book? Although not an issue driven novel, Capital does weave in many contemporary issues into the narrative, thus it makes it a good choice for the socially and politically engaged. The stories of all the characters are completely believable, which may be why the novel is so shocking. This would make a great book club pick for a group who enjoys exploring issues.