It’s 2008, and things are falling apart: Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers are going under, and the residents of Pepys Road, London - a banker and his shopaholic wife, an old woman dying of a brain tumor and her graffiti-artist grandson, Pakistani shop owners and a shadowy refugee who works as the meter maid, the young soccer star from Senegal and his minder - are receiving anonymous postcards reading "We Want What You Have." Who is behind it? What do they want?
Epic in scope, yet intimate, capturing the ordinary dramas of very different lives, this is a novel of love and suspicion, of financial collapse and terrorist threat, of property values going up and fortunes going down, and of a city at a moment of extraordinary tension.
©2012 John Lanchester (P)2012 W.F. Howes
I loved every minute of this book. Lanchester brings all his characters out through action and conversation and he has a great handle on what was happening in London during the 2000's. Looks at the era from a lot of different viewpoints. I cared about all these people, whether I liked them or not. There are a few references which require some background in English culture, but you won't have a problem if you don't catch them. Very nice story, really couldn't recommend it more highly.
This is a perceptive novel about people who live and work on a gentrified street in London in 2007 - 2008, just before the stock market crash. The tone of the book is intelligent, compassionate, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Colin Mace's narration is terrific. The author handles his panoramic cast of characters well (think Dickens, Balzac, Zola) and with insight. If you have liked Tom Wolfe's novels but sometimes find his sardonicism mean-spirited or irritating, you will appreciate Capital. I enjoyed this novel tremendously and have recommended it to friends.
I read a non-fiction book by John Lanchester about economics and '08 banking crisis. He was great at making some complex economic matters comprehensible to a lay person. So I was curious to read a book with a fictional take on the same period. The novel maintained my interest throughout and managed to be of the period without polemics or becoming didactic. It was amusing throughout, in spite of the author touching on darker matters: terrorist threat, immigration, 1% rapacity. In spite of that backdrop, the characters were all rather likable, ordinary (in the best sense). It reminded me how we are all caught up in history, just trying to get on and make sense of things. Great read.
This rich and entertaining novel begins with the residents of a gentrifying London street receiving anonymous postcards, stating only, "We Want What You Have." The novel follows many of the residents, who live amazing lives, and who are troubled by but generally oblivious to the postcards. These include the ambitious but lazy banker and his giddy wife, who lives to spend; the Pakistani family that owns the shop on the corner; the elderly widow whose family has lived in their house for generations, and the young Senegalese soccer star, living with his father in his agent's house. And then there are the non-residents, like the middle-class detective charged with finding the source of the postcards, the Banksy-like anonymous artist, the Zimbabwean refugee meter maid, the Polish handyman and the Hungarian nanny. And various assistants, friends and family. All the characters are well-drawn and believable.
Despite this melange, the plot is clear and well-constructed. There is humor throughout, and suspense and some surprisingly moving scenes. The author makes fun of some of the characters and their ambitions, but he also likes them all (I think). Personally, I liked the characters and rooted for most of them throughout the book.
The narrator was excellent, speaking with the right tone of bemusement. Frankly, I loved this book.
Near the top.
Little Dorrit - because of its panoramic view of London.
A splendid performance.
Lancaster understands economics and empathizes with human beings. As a result he creates a pictures of the inhabitants of a London street you both understand and believe in. A splendid book.
Several writing conventions made this an interesting book. First, it told several intertwined stories that were held together by geography. All of the main characters lived on a small street. The historical perspective of the street was typical of London. An old woman had lived there her entire adult life, her daughter and grandson lived different lives but were tied to the street for different reasons; a "master of the universe" type had moved in, thinking the street would be the next great neighborhood; an immigrant family lived on the fringe of the street and ran a small store ... their aspirations lent perspective and a phenomenal athlete, being evaluated by a leading soccer team reflected the "outsider" view. Finally the Greek chorus was provided by a handyman that worked on the street for two of the protagonists. The people had such different lives and perspectives it gave authenticity to the varying stories. It was tedious and slow in places but worth the work.
The handyman finding the money in the wall.
no, it required some reflection
I would absolutely recommend this audiobook!
John Lanchester paints a portrait of 21st century life in London with sympathy, humor and dead-on accuracy. At first you think you're getting yourself into one more social satire -- aren't these materialistic wannabes so terrible (or at least so much worse than I am?). And Lanchester nails all those details perfectly with pitch-perfect nuance. But then the book opens up and gives us real human lives with humor, heart and insight.
The narrator is incredibly good!
He's funny, sympathetic, smart, and gives perfect intonation to both dialogue and narration. True, some of the African accents were not so great, but to be able to assume the accents and perspectives of so many people of multicultural London -- a Polish builder, Hungarian nanny, City bankers, artist with a fake East End accent (for his street cred), Pakistani shopkeepers male and female as well as their children ("Daddy!"), an 82-year-old middle class lady named Petunia -- constitutes a true tour de force.
I loved the Kamal family and begrudgingly admired and even loved Mrs. Kamal's determination. I think I would enjoy their argumentativeness, intelligence, and willingness to connect with one another.
I'll be looking out for more novels from John Lanchester and more books read by Colin Mace.
Ordinary but profound.
This Altmanesque story touches upon the lives of "typical" Londoners. The book does not dazzle you with creativity. It settles for small insights. Its greatest virtue is that despite its breadth it never hits a false note.
The narrator is outstanding. I have seen interviews with John Lanchester, the author. The narrator has the same tone and inflection.
I like this writer, and was excited to hear this book. But it froze my iPod at 13 minutes into part 1. Audible couldn't find anything wrong on their end, but the problem never got solved.
I cant believe I listened to the whole book waiting for something to happen. There were tons of interesting characters whos lives crossed. But the story never got going. Totally lacked an ending that made me feel like the individual characters stories ended.
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