Posted by: billpurdue | July 12, 2013

“Capital” – a state of the nation novel

If you’re a regular fiction reader, I’m sure you might at one time or another have picked up a book in a bookshop because you were lured by the wonderful comments on the cover from reviews in the press. Have you also found that you don’t agree with the comments from the reviewers?


This was the case for me when I started to read John Lanchester’s Capital which came out in paperback this year. The comments included the phrases ‘outrageously funny’, ‘often hilarious’ and just simply ‘funny’. I didn’t think this book was anything more than mildly amusing, but then we don’t all have the same sense of humour.


That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. In brief this is a book, set in 2008,  about a well to do London suburban street, where the houses are all worth, well, rather a lot, but those who live there are from very varied backgrounds. It seems that someone has their eye on their wealth as the residents of the street begin to receive postcards which usually bear a photo of the appropriate house and the words “We want what you have”.


The reader gets to know quite a few of the residents of the street (Pepys Road) including Petunia Howe, who is dying of a brain tumour, Roger Yount, an investment banker and his wife Arabella who just loves spending money, the Kamal family who run the newsagents shop and the teenager Freddy Kamo, a talented footballer from Africa who has just come to live in London . In fact the theme of the mysterious postcards often seems to get lost behind everything else that is happening to the residents. Roger gets the sack following the discovery of a rogue trader in his department, one of the Kamal sons is arrested for suspected terrorism after he allowed an old friend to stay in his flat and use his computer and Freddy sustains a terrible injury bringing a promising football career to a halt.


It is a very enjoyable book – and here I will agree with a comment from the Guardian reviewer who wrote “a hugely readable state of the nation novel”. The year 2008 is significant, being the year of the huge financial crisis. I enjoyed it in spite of the fact that all the time I was wanting to read more about the mysterious postcards, but gradually I realised that this might really be a sub plot or even just a diversion. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.


Veteran railway photographer

Last decade of steamLooking through the June 2013 edition of the Railway Magazine, I came across an article about the railway photographer Gavin Morrison (not to be confused with the railway photographer Bryan Morrison). Gavin’s 64th (!!) railway photography book was published in May. It’s entitled The Last Decade of British Railways Steam: a photographer’s personal journey. Having taken over 140,000 railway photos, a majority of which are slides, Mr Morrison only started using a digital camera 18 months ago. The latest book contains 250 colour photos of the last 10 years of steam on BR with detailed captions and it’s been very well received.



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