A new Zadie Smith novel always offers reason to rejoice, with The Fraud seeing her delve into the realm of historical fiction for the first time. The eight interconnected volumes within the novel are concentrated around Victorian Britain and the Hope Plantation in Jamaica. As cousin by marriage and past muse of the novelist William Ainsworth, protagonist Eliza Touchet offers a glimpse into the lives of their household and the literary circles of the time, including guest appearances from well-known figures including Charles Dickens.
Captivated by the ‘Tichborne Trial’, which is attempting to prove the real identity of Sir Roger Tichborne, Eliza becomes enamoured with key witness Andrew Bogle, whose past plantation enslavement mirrors his present situation. With so much at stake for all parties, in court and within private households, Mrs Touchet provides a satirical view from the periphery, highlighting the lack of freedoms and deception within society.
Moving in a different direction from the previous contemporary offering, this is an immersive and fascinating work. The Fraud’s narrative threads do jump occasionally, but once your bearings are in place, it’s a smooth and well-researched insight into a relatively unknown novelist and the connections of the past.
The Fraud, Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
Price: £20/£9.99 Ebook/£16 audiobook. Info: here
words RHIANON HOLLEY