An overarching theme of my Cannonball Read this year has been “wouldn’t necessarily have made the effort but it was stupidly cheap/free on Kindle so I gave it a punt”. And Capital fits nicely into that theme. For an extended period earlier this year, it was available on Kindle for just 20p. So here we are.
The novel centres on Pepys Road, a normal street in London, and a handful of its inhabitants. Over almost 600 pages,their stories are told at a leisurely pace. Tying all the residents together is a sustained campaign against them. It starts with all the houses on the street receiving a postcard. On the front is a picture of their house, on the back is the phrase “We Want What You Have”. It spirals from there until graffiti and vandalism relating to the campaign forces them to involve the police.
In between the lengthy campaign, we meet sort of illegal aliens working as traffic wardens, bankers relying on a six figure bonus that doesn’t arrive, a Banksy-inspired artist who values his anonymity above all else, an Asian family running a corner shop and a teenage footballing sensation from Senegal. For the vast majority of this novel, Lanchester quietly sets up all his dominos regarding all their various plots and subplots, before spending the last few chapters gleefully knocking them all down. The set up is very much in the vein of “nothing is really happening but it’s so well written and engrossing you don’t really care”, of which, I have mentioned on here before, I am a huge fan.
Ultimately then, the knocking everything down and tying up all the loose ends fell a bit short for me. It wasn’t that it was bad, far from it. It was more that the groundwork was so meticulous and detailed that I’d reached the conclusions Lanchester was heading towards several chapters before we arrived there. I know it’s not a suspense novel or a whodunnit so a “gotcha” ending wasn’t really the point, and it by no means spoiled the book for me. I just wanted there to be something in the dust settling that surprised me, even a little bit. It is still an epic and brilliant novel, just a safely predictable one.