A few years ago I read John Lanchester's brilliant memoir Family Romance and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when Capital popped up on Brotherhood Books, I pounced. For some reason I thought it would be non-fiction, but it's a huge door-stopper of a novel, Dickensian in scope if not in style.
Capital is set in London just before the 2008 financial crisis, and its cast of many characters is centred around Pepys Rd, a once nondescript street where the inexorable rise of property prices has left the inhabitants sitting in houses now worth millions of pounds. The main plot thread concerns a mysterious campaign of anonymous messages to the residents, saying We Want What You Have. Is it the faceless artist, Smitty? Smitty's grandmother, fading Petunia Howe? Greedy Arabella Yount or her obscenely overpaid financier husband Roger? Their gorgeous nanny, Marta? The Kamal family who run the corner shop? Hard-working Polish builder Zbigniew? Senegalese soccer star Freddy Kamo? Or political refugee Quentina, illegally working as a parking officer?
Divided into short sharp chapters, these multiple points of view are brisk and entertaining, but the sheer multiplicity of characters means that the story takes a long time to get going. It's not until about two thirds of the way through that the individual threads begin to tie together, and while most of the plot threads are resolved, there are some left dangling (I was particularly cross about Quentina, who was really left in limbo -- but that was probably the point.)
Capital is a sprawling, generous, funny saga about money, property and the things that have true value. I really enjoyed it.