June Meeting

For our book club meeting on Wed 6 June, we read Capital by John Lanchester.

Jacket Synopsis:
Pepys Road: an ordinary street in the capital. Each house has seen a hundred years of fortunes made and lost, of hearts broken, of first steps and last breaths. One day in early December 2007, a card with a simple message drops through each letterbox: We Want What You Have.

At forty, Roger Yount is blessed with an expensive life, a stalled marriage and a job in the City. His hoped-for Christmas bonus of a million pounds might seem lavish, but with second homes and nannies to maintain it’s starting to look more like a necessity.

Smitty, bad-boy provocateur of the art world, is maintaining the delicate balance of success and anonymity. Sipping a triple-shot cappucino in his Shoreditch workshop, he considers his next site-specific conceptual piece, Bloody Great Hole.

Elsewhere in the capital, Zbigniew has come from Warsaw to indulge the affluent in their interior decoration whims. Freddy Kamo, teenage football sensation, has left a two-room shack in Senegal to follow his dream. Traffic warden Quentina has exchanged political activism in Zimbabwe for encounters with enraged motorists. For them all, this non-stop city offers the chance of a different kind of life.

[xrr rating=2.25/5]

1 thought on “June Meeting”

  1. The midpoint of our book club year brought us to Capital, with its tale of Pepys Rd and the hoped for colourful, but more often monochromatic characters, who lived or worked on this London street circa 2007. Yep, the clue is in the title and the year – the London equivalent of the Celtic Tiger years, the boom on the cusp of the bust. This economic landscape is not only peppered with familiar City tales, but also by a sprinkle of art world and football wheelings and dealings.

    Perhaps as readers we have recession fatigue and impatience with tales of excess due to economic success. Reckless spending and shallow lives of consumption are vulgarly on show here. Although this is hardly a surprise, it may be why a couple of our members voted one star for this book. However, hand in hand with the one million pound bonus brigade are the asylum seekers and legal immigrants. The former in their efforts to earn a wage to support a basic standard of living are abused by the system. The latter are shrewd enough to milk the system for all it’s worth and plan to return home to a more comfortable life.

    The many characters and their circumstances are presented simply by John Lanchester. Some club members complained that the characters were unlikeable and shallow, and the book at over 500 pages seemed somewhat repetitious. That being said those very same characters reflect the narcissism of the time quite accurately. One member awarded Capital three and a half stars and observed that the novel is “a chronicle of our times in an easy to read format”, and perhaps when people are looking back at what happened in the 2000s, they will read this book. Possibly the attempt to chronicalize too many themes is the downfall of Capital, leading to somewhat simplistic characterization resulting in an unsatisfactory read for some. However, despite its flaws Capital is an easy read and not entirely deserving of its low two and a quarter star rating by the book club.

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