Pepys Road: an ordinary street in the Capital. Each house has seen its fair share of first steps and last breaths, and plenty of laughter in between. Today, through each letterbox along this ordinary street drops a card with a simple message: We Want What You Have. Following the residents of Pepys Road, Capital features a cast of characters that you will be sad to leave behind.
©2012 John Lanchester (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
The inhabitants of Pepys Road, in a London suburb, come from wide ranging cultural backgrounds and have with a variety of occupations, interests and plans for the future. The story is set in 2007-8 when the global financial crisis will affect them all in different ways.
We meet a rich young banker and his spoilt wife, a Pakistani shopkeeper and members of his family, an aging widow and her grandson, and a young Senegalese soccer star here with his father and minder. Through these characters we come to follow several others who touch their lives such as a nanny, a builder and the local traffic warden. Pepys Road itself and the people who come and go there are representative of London in all its glorious diversity.
The individual dramas in the lives of the residents are played out, while the overall story is held together by the mystery of the letter cards “We Want What You Have” as they appear. The clear detailed descriptions writing help you picture Pepys Road, the workplaces and the people. John Lanchester's understanding of so many different characters and his skill of sharing that understanding with us in natural, seemingly effortless writing is first rate.
There is thoughtful perception in the ability to think as Petunia in her eighties, or how Patrick and Freddy cope with living in UK, or the process as Zbigniew, the builder wrestles with his problems. The trepidation of the whole family awaiting the arrival of their matriarch, Mrs Kamal Snr, is humourous perfection. There are so many marvellous characters here, some you will love, some to make you laugh, some you may dislike intensely. Colin Mace narrates clearly and smoothly so the story flows and each character comes to life in your imagination.
You may run through a wide range of emotions in this book, not everything can end happily, but it is hard to stop listening until the realistic and satisfying conclusion. Capital is now a firm favourite for me and I highly recommend it, hoping many others here will share the enjoyment.
"Teems with London life"
I started listening to this book while walking through St James Park and my immediate opinion was how well tha author had captured London life. The characters may at first appear to be cliches but there is no denying they exist in real life. I love the way he manages to interplay their stories without any corny contrived 'going in and out of eachother's houses'. The stories have a light tone but he tackles some serious issues including terrorism, national identity and how asylum seekers are treated. I personally think this book provides a fascinating snapshot of London life since the recession started and it would be interesting to re-visit this sometime in the future.
On a more mundane note, the book may be long but it is divided into short chapters and this makes this a very easy listen when you have to dip in and out of the story. The narrator has to convey a multitude of voices and he does a first rate job.
"A capital listen"
I downloaded the book because of all the good reviews it received in the media. And, yes, it is a fantastic listen, not only very interesting but most entertaining and well read too. One of the best books I listened to over the past months. A real treat.
"Light but gritty"
A little nose behind the doors of a street in London. some gritty storylines dealt with in a way that was neither too flippant , nor depressive. Each chapter is short, which makes it easy to pick up even if you have 5 minutes. lots of humour, fantastically interpreted by the narrator. He helps bring the characters and story to life. Although it's long, it doesn't feel like it. I read the book whilst listening, for the bulk of the duration : the narrator definitely added another layer. Highly recommend this. One of my favourite audible purchases and feel a little bereft now it's finished.
"a lot of characters"
brought in slowly so you don't feel overwhelmed by them. there is a lot of truth about people and there reactions to circumstances.
prudence, the first person we meet is an old lady, and in time needs to see a specialist for a medical condition. she looks a him and thinks "he's only 17" then realises he must be in his thirties. there are lots of little insights like this and it is these that keep you listening and enjoying the book.
the reason I haven't given it a 5 star is I thought it was a bit too long. I thought when the police were brought to deal with the harassment the book would be coming to an end but it went on for another 4 hours mainly about suspected terrorist and an illegal immigrant.
colin mace brought the story to life, giving the many characters voices and emotions.
"He just managed to capture the London life in full"
I was astonished by the detail in which John Lanchester has managed to capture the London life, in all nuances, layers and in such detail. I listened to this book with such interest, unable to put it down! It was such a true description, I lived in Clapham for more than six years myself, and then in the area for over 11 years, so it really felt like I had a closer glimpse into my neighbours' lives! It is more true for Clapham than anywhere else in London that the change for the past couple of generations is unbelievable, and this area is still climbing up the market, with property prices going through the roof!! This is a collection of stories about London life, so colourful, so unpredictable! I almost did not believe when I came to the end of the book, as I if expected the stories to go on, a bit like reality tv, it was addictive to have this peek into other people's lives.
"A great cast of characters"
Firstly, the narrator was fantastic. Thank you Colin Mace. I enjoyed this book immensely. It is the story of the inhabitants of one London street in the years 2007 to 2008- when the financial crash set in-and the story of their lives. There is Roger-a banker directly affected by the crash and various characters in between to old Mrs Letherby who is not affected by the crash in any way but who has her own story that is just as absorbing. All these characters hardly ever interact but are propelled forward by a very thin common plot line and the absorbing nature of their own stories. You could argue that many of these individual stories are stereotypical, but the characters are delightfully drawn and I felt genuinely sad to leave them and not know how their stories ended. Was it Poland or Hungary or London? Or was it Poland and Hungary! Zimbabwe or the UK, The countryside or the City? Ah we will never know.
"Lots of good ideas"
This book is full of good ideas but is perhaps let down by just how many of those ideas there are. Some of the characters and stories are great but some are a bit clichéd and you find yourself inevitably looking forward to getting back to the bits that interest you more. It's especially puzzling when you look back on the (long) book and realise that some characters only appeared once or twice.
I found a couple of the storylines quite predictable although that didn't necessarily detract from my overall enjoyment. And I would have liked more well-drawn female characters who I felt (with the exception of one touching mother and daughter storyline) were somewhat two-dimensional.
Overall definitely worth reading: enjoyable, great pace, funny and moving in places. But somehow not quite as satisfying as I wanted it to be.
I thought the read was really good. I both read and listed to this book and the two slotted together perfectly, in large part thanks to the quality of the read.
I purchased both the print book of this novel and the audio book and have to say that I really appreciated the novel most when it was brought to life in audio. It's a lively and engaging listen with several laughs along the way. Great stories about slightly stereotypical figures in London.
"A Must Listen"
As a tale of London life this is a magical book full of humour and pathos. It can also make you squirm when it comes too close to home. The narrator is just right and vibrantly bring the characters to life.
I normally like to see some reviews prior to purchasing but something about this one grabbed my attention when it was just released. I was not disappointed. I give this book a 5 for original concept and a good cracking listen. Kept me interested all the way.
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