Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This Week's Big Read: Capital

I mentioned at the weekend that I only have a week to read Capital by John Lanchester before it is due back at the library, as it has been reserved by another reader.
My policy in these circumstances is to read the first chapter quickly and make a snap decision:  is it worth the effort or should I just return the book unread?
That was on Saturday...
I am now on page 304.
So there hasn't been much knitting or sewing or indeed sleeping around these parts over the past couple of days!
It is a Big Book (577 pages) but is a very smooth read.  Although I am going pretty fast I have not once had to look back to check who's who - the characters are all strong and distinct.  Some might say they are a bit too obviously "types" ticked off on a list of "London dwellers:  common species":  Polish builder, African traffic warden, City wide boy, yummy mummy, poor old lady with cancer, Banksy-esque artist, Asian family with a corner shop... but the forward momentum of the writing saves it from a mire of stereotype and cliche.
It is not a particularly "literary" book, though you will find nods to other fictional cityscapes:  Mrs Dalloway, Bonfire of the Vanities, White Teeth, Brick Lane, a splash of Underworld and perhaps even a hint of Beckett's Murphy (though it's so long since I read it, I can't be sure).
I don't "know" John Lanchester and I can see that I need to investigate his other work.  At this half-way point, I am beginnning to see the gradual interweaving of the apparently disparate characters' fates and appreciate that there is probably a clever plot in here, which the author is going to reveal to me in his own sweet time.  But it's OK.  I am enjoying the journey.
I don't think it's a book that will make it to the A-level reading list anytime soon but it is bound to be a best-seller among those who like a Big Read without  the challenge of explicit sex / violence / drugs (although all three are "reported" in a very neutral and broadsheet-journalist sort of way).
In summary:  yes, it is definitely worth reading.  I am sitting here itching to get back to it, which says a lot.  The more I think about it:  it is like reading an enormous Observer / Guardian Weekend magazine without the food and fashion.
Now there's an idea!  Write a novel using only the characters you find in one edition of the Sunday supplement:  ready, steady.... GO!

P.S.  There's an interesting interactive website linked to Capital here.


didyoumakethat said...

Fascinating! I love the interactive website. The publisher is Faber and Faber who are very forward thinking. If you have an iPad, you should get their TS Eliot Wastelands app - it's amazing. (Though not cheap.) I love your book reviews! Am off to get this one.

Franca said...

I heard about this book and it sounded really interesting! will try to get it out of the library.

Anonymous said...

Hi - thought I'd say hello to you. I'm Eva. I live in the north of Scotland in a railway station - people still catch trains here - and I've been following your blog. I've got mm, dx in 2008. My mother used to adore sewing and designing clothes. I'm afraid I lack the talent. I taught until not long ago and my husband is Michel Faber, an author, so he's brought some wonderful books into my life - not just when he writes them, but also when we get sent books for Michel to review. If you ever want to drop me a line my email is evayouren@lineone.net.
Thanks for your blog,

Joan said...

May I recommend "Mr. Phillips" and "Fragrant Harbour" by the same author? Or read "The Debt to Pleasure" before the others, and marvel at how his writing has developed... He is one of my favourites, and "Family Romance" is in the pile by my bedside, waiting to be read.

Linda C said...

That book looks like it would be fascinating to read- but then, so do several of the others. I wonder why I don't run across them on Amazon US. I really do need to see about swapping some of myold books on Amazon.


christinelaennec said...

Hi there Roobeedoo,
Yet another interesting post from you. Just to say I have nominated you for the Sunshine Award! (not intended to be heavily ironic) See my blog for details: http://christinelaennec.co.uk/2012/07/25/award-ceremonies-of-the-blog-world/