John Lanchester – Capital

(Written a bit back…) Christmas has been and gone. The seemingly never ending hours in the car, the aching arms from lugging presents to relative’s houses, and the cramps from the endless mountain of Brazil nuts and the red foiled chocolates that no one wants, are gone. All that hassle for a day that was all over before it really began.

The silver lining though is that you undoubtedly made a New Year’s resolution to read more. To make sure that you were at the cutting edge of literature, and to keep the promise to yourself that when you get the odd snatched moments of peace – you will devote them to reading.

Capital, by John Lanchester, has recently has the small screen treatment – but don’t let that put you off indulging in this epic tale of London’s fictional Pepys Road. Pepys was of course a great diarist, and this novel forms a curious diary of five main characters, with an exceptionally high number of secondary characters.

When staring at this book’s cover, I thought it would overpower me and I’d struggle to really invest in the characters. However, once Petunia, Roger, Ahmed and Rohinka, and Freddy get under your skin then it seems impossible that you’ve not moved into Pepys Road yourself. While not the most original or transformative book you’ll read in your lifetime, it is a story told about the stories of people – and for that alone it carries a magic.

The book satisfies our voyeuristic desire to know what our neighbours are up to. Lanchester invites us into that screaming match in the lounge, he lets us know why she was crying on his doorstep, and it tells us why the builder is whistling a merry tune. While Potteresque in depth Capital remains engaging throughout – something that few novels of that length achieve.

At the start of a new year, the time when we try and muster the best of ourselves against the back drop of mince pie babies still gestating in our stomachs, it’s important to try and find perspective.