There’s nothing more delicious than tucking into a really good book on a cool, cloudy afternoon. That’s what I did today and finished reading John Lanchester’s “Capital”, a book about the lives of a cross-section of Londoners faced with 21st century problems in their everyday lives. The book’s title references money and how the high price of real estate in a London neighbourhood is a catalyst in each of the characters’ lives. The homes on Pepys Road which were affordable when they were built now command insane sums of money. The City stock trader has a lot of it and his wife enjoys spending it. The immigrant Pakistani family at the corner has considerably less, working long hours seven days a week running the local grocery store. A Polish builder is employing his physical skills and strong character to save for a better future. A rookie professional footballer gets a taste of it. A Hungarian nanny’s ambitions are constantly challenged. An artist’s grandmother who is one of the original owners of a home on the street when they were built dies. A Zimbabwian traffic warden’s life as an illegal immigrant becomes entangled in the plot. Put all these fascinating characters into the pot, stir gently and a nice little plot as intriguing as Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” emerges.
The book has 107 short chapters which made me feel like I was making quick progress as I became increasingly more invested in the daily lives of each of the characters. The author intelligently and sensitively covers a number of issues including the death of a parent, greedy ambition, terrorism, parenting, love, ethics and the definition of success. When I read the last page late this afternoon I felt satisfied and happy. What more could you ask of a good book—a capital experience indeed.