Capital by John Lanchester

Fiction Pick by Jean-Louis
(WW Norton, 2012)
John Lanchester recently wrote a very interesting non-fiction book entitled I.O.U. In that book he looked at the whole debt crisis and the financial disaster which came to head in 2008. He evidently had enough material left over to write this very engaging novel set in the same period.

With a wide cast of characters, Lanchester’s novel deals with the residents of a single London street. The lives investigated range from the young Polish builder, the Hungarian nanny, the aging widow and her daughter, the Muslim shop corner shop owners, the Senegalese football prodigy, to the investment banker and his family. Lanchester deals with all of these stories which occur side by side in the great city. And while their lives are mostly separate, a common menace threatens them all. This menace touches each of the characters and announces to all “We Want What You Have.”

The tension in the novel is real and I found myself eager to find out where the lifepaths of the characters would take them and how the “capital” in their lives would add up. What is it that the unknown menacing force wants? Lanchester has written a fine novel which deals in an immediate way with money and power. Grounded in the financial and cultural reality of London, the novel brings to life questions of economics. In the language of a bond rater, I would give this novel a AAA rating!

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