From the best-selling author of The Debt to Pleasure, a sweeping social novel set at the height of the financial crisis.
Celebrated novelist John Lanchester (“an elegant and wonderfully witty writer”—New York Times) returns with an epic novel that captures the obsessions of our time. 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.
About John Lanchester
John Lanchester is the author of three novels, including the widely translated The Debt to Pleasure. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and was awarded the 2008 E.M. Forster Award. He lives in London.
Pepys Road was once such a nice street, a place destroyed by a V-2 rocket in World War II and rebuilt in such a way that aspirational veterans and young people could buy a stake in the British Dream. But that was then. Now, in 2007, after boom and bust and boom and bust, in a time of “bonuses which were big multiples of the national average salary, and a general climate of hysteria [that] affected everything to do with house prices”—well, only the rich can afford to buy in, and the old-timers are increasingly besieged. One of them is the well-heeled and pound-laden banker around whom Lanchester’s (Fragrant Harbor, 2002, etc.) novel, as leisurely and complex as an Edith Wharton yarn, turns. But even he is much put-out, since his wife can’t seem to get it in her head that money is not simply a thing to be spent at every waking moment. Meanwhile, from out in the darkness, messages are raining down, vaguely threatening, saying, “We want what you have.” Ah, but practically everyone in this book wants everything, and those who don’t want at least something that they don’t have, from lost youth to a little peace and quiet. Who are the authors of these mystery demands? One thing that DI Mill (think, fleetingly, of John Stuart) concludes is that, first, they’re not Nigerians or Kosovars or Eskimos, and second, though capable of better things, he’s glad to have the distraction, even if “when he was doing routine repetitive work, that it was the equivalent of harnessing a racehorse to a plough.” Mill finds plenty to do, and so does Roger, our banker, who’s got a financial empire to save on top of his own bankbook and marriage. – Kirkus Reviews
Right On The Money: A ‘Capital’ Book For Our Times
NPR Book Review – June 8, 2012 (Excerpt)
England has always reveled in its drawing-room dramas, from Jane Austen’s social minefields to E.M. Forster’sHowards End to Upstairs, Downstairs — and yes, the blockbuster Downton Abbey.
John Lanchester’s brilliant Capital, set on a once-ordinary London block whose housing prices have skyrocketed, has the distinction of being the first brick-and-mortar novel set squarely in our current times. It’s 2008, the peak of the housing crisis, and the homes of Pepys Road, built in the late 19th century for people willing to trade a bad neighborhood for better digs, have zoomed to stratospheric worth. But there’s a worm in the budget: Someone is sending each newly enriched homeowner a picture of his own front door, scrawled with the message, “We want what you have.” Which — each homeowner wonders — is what?
The answers are as varied as the residents themselves. One of the great delights of Capital is how Lanchester uses the book to show readers the sparkling strata of present-day London, from Arabella Yount, the social-climbing wife of a banker who looks at the card and merely observes no one she knows uses second-class stamps, to her builder, Polish resident Zbigniew, who has traded his present life to save for his father’s retirement — a country house which is currently just a castle in the air. Only Petunia Howe, the eldest resident on the street, has the sense to look at her own brittle bones and tatty linoleum with clear eyes. Her answer to the card: Why would anyone would want what she has? [Read the full article...]
This Is London - ‘Capital,’ a Novel by John Lanchester
The New York Times Book Review – July 12, 2012 (Excerpt)
In “Capital,” a modern offshoot of juicy social satires like Trollope’s novel “The Way We Live Now,” John Lanchester puts two of his characters in a compartment of the London Eye, the Ferris wheel that went up on the south bank of the Thames to celebrate the millennium. It’s the spring of 2008, a sunny day for once, and a Polish builder named Zbigniew and a Hungarian nanny named Matya are on a date. Though Britain is reeling from the double whammy of global economic woes and terrorism jitters, Zbigniew and Matya take in their bird’s-eye view with no special feeling of unease, apart from a twinge of motion sickness. On terra firma, both work for wealthy homeowners on a gentrified street called Pepys Road in the up-and-coming South London neighborhood of Clapham. At the beginning of the 21st century, before the bursting of the real estate bubble, property values on Pepys Road had soared — even for the modest end house, owned by a Muslim family, that holds a corner shop, and even for the crumbling terraced house owned by an elderly grandmother, which hasn’t had a change of linoleum, wallpaper or electrical wiring in 50 years. Owning property there, Lanchester writes, “was like being in a casino in which you were guaranteed to be a winner.” Lately, though, all is not well on Pepys Road. The high rollers’ holiday bonuses aren’t secure, cash in hand is getting scarce, and ominous postcards have been arriving in every mail slot, reading: “We Want What You Have.” If that weren’t alarming enough, a young man in a hoodie has been seen lurking in the dawn hours. We all know what that means. [Read the full article...]
THE LONDONDERRY AIR
Testament of an Ulster Gunman A Novel by Garrad Gawler
It all changed for Charles Cunningham, a Physics teacher at the local College of Technology in the County Derry town of Maddenstown, on a June afternoon in 1973 when a bomb exploded in his neighborhood. He answers an advertisement by the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but, in the time to come, he will experience the consequences of his decisions, and how his involvement complicates matters with family and friends, Protestants and Catholics alike, to an unexpected degree.
With “The Londonderry Air – Testament of an Ulster Gunman” Garrad Gawler describes in minute detail and with an astonishing level of authenticity not only the inner workings of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but also the activities of underground paramilitary groups of regular citizens who planned and carried out the assassination of suspected Republican terrorists in their neighborhood.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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