The book features the various residents of Pepys Road, London, who include Roger, a rich banker and his materialistic wife Arabella; 82 year old widow Petunia Howe; shop owners Ahmed and Rohinka Kamal, and their two children; and a young footballer from Senegal and his father. The book starts in December 2007, when each house receives an anonymous postcard which simply says We Want What You Have. The mystery surrounding who is behind the postcards escalates, and provides the backdrop for the snapshots of these characters’ lives. It also shows that despite outward appearances – all the houses on the street are highly desirable and would sell for a huge profit, meaning that the residents are all sitting on a lot of money in assets – sometimes if people knew more about someone’s life, they most certainly would NOT want what that person has.
This book was chosen for our local book club, and produced very mixed reactions. I am firmly in the ‘loved it’ camp. Although it is near 600 pages long, I found myself reading it very quickly and being reluctant to put it down. The book not only concentrated on the residents of Pepys Road, but also their families, colleagues or friends. Everyone is dealing with their own issues, some big, some seemingly inconsequential, perhaps concerning love, money or work (and in a couple of cases, health).
What struck me the most was that as I grew familiar with the characters, I found myself changing my mind about many of them, perhaps liking them more or less than I did originally. The themes which ran through the story lines were relatable, and because of the way that the chapters wove in and out of the various characters’ lives, it never became boring. Just when I was wondering what would happen with one thread, the book carried on with a different one (that sounds like a complaint, but I actually really enjoyed that, and it was part of what made me keep reading).
The story is amusing in parts, and very sad in other parts. At times, the events are so everyday that it’s hard to know exactly what makes the story just so compelling, but it certainly kept me coming back for more.
(I don’t really feel that this review has done justice to the book. Basically I loved it, and want to recommend it to everybody!)