cover image Capital


John Lanchester. Norton, $26.95 (528p) ISBN 978-0-393-08207-4

Lanchester (The Debt to Pleasure) follows on the heels of 2010’s I.O.U., a nonfiction dissection of the great recession, by covering much of the same territory in this barely allegorical study of class conflict and reversal of fortune. The affluent residents of London’s Pepys Road suburb are a handy cross-section of late-2007 types: Roger Yount, a banker riding high and counting on his bonus to cover mortgages and the needs of his spoiled wife; Shahid, the son of Pakistani immigrants working the family shop; the 17-year old soccer prodigy Freddy Kamo; Quentina Mkfesi, an educated Zimbabwean refugee turned traffic warden; the elderly Petunia Howe, living repository of Pepys Road’s postwar rise; and Petunia’s grandson, a Banksy-type artist named Smitty. This is just a sample of the cast, most of whom begin receiving mysterious cards reading “We Want What You Have.” Like clockwork, the quality of life on Pepys Road goes south, with arrests, injuries, illnesses, and financial undoing. But it’s hard to care, with predictable and seldom insightful plot threads, and Lanchester reducing his characters to their socio-economic parameters as surely as the market itself. The result is an obsequious, transparent attempt at an epochal “financial crash” novel that is as thin as a 20-dollar bill. Agent: Caradoc King, AP Watt. (June)