Zadie Smith is back with her first novel since 2016. A work of historical fiction, Smith takes on the divisive "Tichborne Trial" that took place in Victorian England — and just happens to feature Charles Dickens. A brilliant book about authenticity and belief, this novel was well worth the wait.
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. . . .
Based on real historical events, The Fraud is a dazzling novel about truth and fiction, Jamaica and Britain, fraudulence and authenticity and the mystery of “other people.”
“Smith, in her most commanding novel to date, dramatizes with all-too relevant insights crucial questions of veracity and mendacity, privilege and tyranny, survival and self, trust and betrayal . . . Smith is always a must-read, and this spectacularly entertaining and resonant historical novel will have enormous appeal.” -- Booklist (starred review)
“The cultural and literary life of Victorian England erupts vibrantly from each page of this extraordinary novel . . . Smith wrestles contemporary themes surrounding women’s independence, racism, and class disparity from centuries-old events . . . Readers of Geraldine Brooks or Hilary Mantel will be enthralled.” -- Library Journal (starred review)