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Historical Fiction

The Fraud

The Fraud

Zadie Smith

Released in 2023

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It is 1873. Mrs. Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper—and cousin by marriage—of a once-famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years.

Mrs. Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr. Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems.

Andrew Bogle, meanwhile, grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. That the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realize. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story.

The “Tichborne Trial”—wherein a lower-class butcher from Australia claimed he was in fact the rightful heir of a sizable estate and title—captivates Mrs. Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs. Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr. Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task. . . .


"[A] great success. Certainly it's my favorite of this writer's novels. Ms. Smith has always been superb at conjuring voices (in this she is more like Dickens than she might prefer), and the scenes come to life in whirlwinds of dialogue that hurl together working-class cant, Caribbean patois and Queen's English. Though The Fraud is capacious, its chapters are short, vivid and contained...For perhaps the first time since her 2000 debut, White Teeth, Ms. Smith has allowed herself the freedom to be brilliant, without giving equal time to the dutiful rebuttals of guilt and misgiving." -- Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"Along with Smith's signature wry wit and the beautiful originality of her sentences, The Fraud's strength lies in how it portrays Eliza's awakening to the realities of race in 19th-century Britain... The Fraud is absorbing, resonant and relevant." -- The Boston Globe

"[A] brilliant new entry in Smith's catalog . . . The Fraud is not a change for Smith, but a demonstration of how expansive her talents are." -- Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

"This kaleidoscopic novel revolves around the real-life trial of a man who, in late-nineteenth-century London, claimed to be the heir to a fortune . . . The sprawling story is filled with jabs at the hypocrisy of the upper class, characters who doubt institutions, and corollaries of the pugilistic rhetoric of contemporary populism; with characteristic brilliance, Smith makes the many parts of the tale cohere." --The New Yorker

"Zadie Smith is a gifted storyteller and prose stylist. And The Fraud makes a compelling case that historical fiction can lie to tell the truth." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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