"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, April 4, 2024


Title: The Fraud by Zadie Smith

Book Beginning quote: 
A filthy boy stood on the doorway. He might be scrubbed of all that dirt, eventually -- but not of so many orange freckles. No more than fourteen, with skinny, unstable legs like a marionette, he kept pitching forward, shifting soot into the hall. Still, the woman who'd opened the door -- easily amused, susceptible to beauty -- found she couldn't despise him.
Friday56 quote: 
"If poor Lady Tichborne said this man is her son, who are we to disagree?"

Summary: Based on real-life events and people, The Fraud is Zadie Smith's first historical novel.

"The Tichborne Trial" had all of Britain enthralled in 1873-4. The trial took 188 court days and established that Thomas Castro aka Arthur Orton (the claimant) was not the heir to the Tichborne baronetcy. He was indeed a fraud. But his trial brought out Orton fans, mostly among lower class, who were willing to set aside facts to remain devoted to his cause. The strongest testimony for Arthur Orton's case is a freed slave, Andrew Bogle, who gives a compelling and dignified account. One witness to the court proceedings is Eliza Touchet, a cousin of a third-rate author, William Ainsworth. Through her association with her cousin, Mrs. Touchet meets many other authors, including Charles Dickens. She think he is a bully and a moralist. She is also involved in organizations for abolition and wonders at the horrors associated with colonializations. 

Review: If the summary makes the book sound complicated, you are correct. Author Zadie Smith tries to cram a lot into her historical novel. Not only is the Tickborne Trial details complicated enough but we learn the backstory of William Ainsworth and his cousin-in-law, Eliza Touchet, in sketches that reach back in time. It is both confusing and too much -- too many characters, too many details, too many times that the story looks back. My husband and I did realize that Smith was making some political parallels to today with Trump fans dismissing all of his crimes and foibles and loving him even when all the factual evidence points against him. 

To add to the confusion, Zadie Smith narrated her own audiobook, and though she did well with the Scottish accent, it was not perfect for us Yanks to listen to especially with car noise in the background (we were listening on a road trip.) At some point both my husband and I gave up trying to keep all the details straight and just listened to get the gist of the story. Not an ideal way to consume a book. Andrea Long Chu, writing a review for Vulture, said that Zadie Smith has "lost her teeth," playing around with the title of Smith's first (and best?) book, titled White Teeth. This is my first Zadie Smith novel. I haven't given up on her but think I should reach back and try one of her earlier novels.

After finishing up The Fraud my husband and I started playing another audiobook. It was a long road trip, after all. And guess what? We couldn't stand it. After less than an hour of listening we stopped the new book realizing that the writing wasn't anywhere near the quality of Smith's book. Ha! So I concluded that The Fraud was not my favorite novel but Zadie Smith sure can write!

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As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. Help me communicate with past participants so they can figure out where and how to find me, please post this post's URL on your blog. Don't forget to drop a comment on my post also! Thanks.

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