New reviews of BEAUTY by Raphael Selbourne

News item

“Raphael Selbourne’s Beauty tells the story of a naive young Bengali woman living in Wolverhampton who finds herself ostracised by her family after a failed arranged marriage.

When she runs away, her flight brings her into the ambit of two unlikely protectors: a downwardly- mobile middle-class twit and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding skinhead.
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, 26th September 2009

“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.”

Independent, 10th September 2009

“‘Woolverhamptun’ is not a friendly place if your brothers think you’re ‘faggol’ for refusing to marry a mullah three times your age and you’ve been sent back from Bangladesh in disgrace. The plan had been to get the mullah a passport and Beauty’s refusal to co-operate has gone down badly with her family. But they can’t keep her locked up forever — her jobseeker’s allowance depends on her learning to read on a RiteSkills course.
Meanwhile, Mark Aston is living in a squalid house on Prole Street, with little to recommend him except his union flag tongue stud and a pack of bull terriers trained to lunge at blacks or Asians. After Beauty runs away, ex-con Mark becomes her saviour. Selbourne’s depiction of the relationship between the two is touching — the innocence of their friendship is unexpected and sweetly convincing.”

Observer, 11 October 2009

Reader’s Comments

  1. Not again! Is it possible to write a book or win a prize without the Asian/immigrant theme these days? And will it ever be possible again? Just wondered!?

    N. Fulton — 12th January 2010

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  1. Raphael Selbourne was born and grew up in Oxford. After studying Politics at Sussex University, he moved to Italy where he worked mostly as a...

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