- September 3rd 2009
- 336 pages
- B-Format Paperback
- 978 095564 767
2009 COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD WINNER
Captures the raw humanity of inner city life with extraordinary authenticity
— Judges of the Costa First Novel Award
Selbourne brilliantly plays out a comedy of conflicting cultural and class expectations, repeatedly confounding reader’s expectations when contrasts between ‘white’ and ‘Asian’, ‘yob’ and ‘toff’ values threaten to become too obvious. He captures perfectly an England of pound shops and Jobcentres with ‘client beverage facilities’. Through Beauty herself, he gives the tale of the innocent abroad an original twist
— Financial Times
Beauty – in both name and appearance – is a twenty-year-old Bangladeshi, back in England having disgraced her family by fleeing an abusive arranged marriage. Placed on the jobseekers’ treadmill, and under continuing domestic pressure, in desperation, she runs away.
Her encounters with officialdom, fellow claimants, and passers-by in the city streets, complicated by the restrictions and comfort of her language and culture, place her at the mercy of such unlikely helpers as Mark, a friendly, Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding ex-offender, and Peter, a middle-class underachiever on the rebound from a bitter relationship.
Determined and spirited, yet tormented by doubts, Beauty is forced to examine her own beliefs and think seriously about her future. While her brothers search for her across the city, the conflict between her desire for personal freedom and her sense of family duty deepens. What will she do?
A sharply rendered, compassionate and challenging portrait of a fragmented, multicultural urban England.
Selbourne’s depiction of the relationship between Beauty and Mark is touching – the innocence of their friendship is unexpected and sweetly convincing.
Shocking, explosive and tender – I could not put it down. Selbourne has a brilliant ear for dialogue and real compassion for his characters
Selbourne writes convincingly both of Beauty’s Bengali household and Mark’s working-class world of casual sex, pubs and hard manual labour. Grim and threatening, this first novel is also occasionally very funny.