37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty and the beasts - an absorbing tale of brutality and love
Beauty is a nineteen year-old Bengali woman who grew up in London and was then taken to Bangladesh and forced into marriage with a man in his forties when she was fourteen. Beauty had the courage to scream the place down when her husband tried to have sex with her, and he never tried again. Now disgraced and back home in Wolverhampton with her family she lives a life of...
Published on 20 Jan 2010 by A. Dracup
3.0 out of 5 stars Beauty
Raphael Selbourne's `Beauty' is about a 20-year-old woman from Bangladesh, who grew up in London. At the age of 14, she was taken back to Bangladesh and forced into marriage to a 45 - year - old mullah. Beauty escaped the abusive marriage by feigning madness but found herself fleeing back to the UK to her parent's home in Wolverhampton, surrounding with the thought of...
Published 6 months ago by Clare Lickley
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty and the beasts - an absorbing tale of brutality and love,
This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)Beauty is a nineteen year-old Bengali woman who grew up in London and was then taken to Bangladesh and forced into marriage with a man in his forties when she was fourteen. Beauty had the courage to scream the place down when her husband tried to have sex with her, and he never tried again. Now disgraced and back home in Wolverhampton with her family she lives a life of drudgery, cleaning and cooking for her two brutish brothers and her bulllying father. Her mother is inert and depressed and Beauty fears for her younger sister who seems destined to share the terrifying fate of a disempowered female in a rigid, male-dominated Muslim family. She decides to leave home and make a new life. Along the way she meets a number of interesting people including ex-con Mark with his gang of neglected dogs and a heart of gold, and the narcissistic Peter who has lustful designs on her. She gets work in a residential home for the elderly and gradually begins to understand what she really wants in life. And on her journey she manages to bring some kind of happiness to all the people she meets, enabling them to confront their own demons.
The story is told in a direct, unsentimental yet sympathetic way so that the reader understands and cares about the characters. The writing style is direct, evocative, humourous and immensely skilled, although some readers might become irritated by the italicised asides in Beauty's native language. And what a relief to read a new novel entirely devoid of the affected showy-off writing selected by a number of best-selling authors I have read recently.
I was sorry to reach the rather surprising end of the story, and within a few hours sat down and started to read it all over again.
This book will tell many readers more than they have ever known before about the Asian culture - its variety, its view of other immigrant groups, its warmth and its sometimes appallingly primitive beliefs and behaviour.
A truly satisfying and enjoyable read. Highly recommended - I'm telling all my friends.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning debut.,
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This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)This has to be one of the best books I have ever read and the fact this is a debut novel makes it all the more exciting if this is the type of fiction we can expect from this new author.
The plot is described by the previous 5 star review so I won't go into detail (although Beauty is 20, not 25).
It has absolutely everything a gripping story needs; from the first page the story draws you in. There are only a handful of main characters whose development is fascinating. The story is extremely well researched (I work in an inner city area and experience these stories daily) right down to the language, the clothes, the environment, the behaviour. It is disturbing in a way no other book I have ever read is; in a way it is a horror story, the story of people living in an inner city and how those lives are so very different from others. The book shows the despair alongside hope, it is fast paced and not written in any pretentious literary style (considering this is an award winning book) which means it will appeal to many.
The journeys of the characters make for a story so full of many layers; injustice, poverty, social issues, love, family and lots more including western caucasian attitudes to family as well as the Asian aspect of the story. The comparisons between the cultures are so interesting and thought provoking.
Highly recommended and thoroughly deserving of any award presented to it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty by Raphael Selbourne,
This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)This is an interesting book detailing the life of a young girl just out of her teens attempting to adjust to life in a West Midlands town(Wolverhampton) surrounded by strangers in a strange environment.As a Bangladesshi the pressures on her to enter into an arranged marriage lead to her running away into an even stranger series of encounters as she fights for her personal freedom.The author
uses the Bangladesshi idiom as well as slang English to create an oppressive atmosphere which runs through out the book.I found it difficult to switch from the two different speech patterns at the beginning but gradually grew into the the rhythm of writing used by the author and found the experience worthwhile.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty, written beautifully.,
This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)Beauty
It might be tempting, when starting to read this novel, to wonder how an author whose name and background mark him so firmly as middle class can render an authentic portrayal of a Bangladeshi woman and an English ex-con. Yet in this impressive work of fiction Selbourne captures the gritty reality of Wolverhampton's unemployed so successfully that this preconception is easily cast aside.
The novel is full of accurately rendered dialogue which includes Beauty's accented English, Mark's Wolverhampton vernacular and Peter's bland middle-class tones with occasional snatches of Jamaican and Somalian accents thrown into the mix as well.
The two male characters are quite surprising; Peter, superficially, is charming and handsome, but beneath this veneer he is selfish and disturbing. Mark on the other hand we might expect to dislike, with his excessive swearing and crime-filled past, but Selbourne takes him on a journey which transforms him into a character who shows a touching respect for Beauty and keenly hopes to be able to improve his life and situation.
As its central theme the novel addresses the plight of the eponymous heroine Beauty, who is escaping from her abusive past and potentially horrific future. Through Beauty we witness the disturbing isolation and violence of her home life and gain an insight into the social restrictions which bind her. Yet we are given a fresh insight into our own society through her eyes: her horror in realising that we abandon our elderly parents to care homes, in the name of 'freedom'.
We learn a lot from Beauty's internal conversations with herself, constantly questioning how she should behave and wondering how she fits into the world now that she has left her family, which eventually leads us to the novel's somewhat unexpected conclusion. This conclusion which on first appearances might seem to be a disappointment, a fatal error by Selbourne, actually gives the novel far greater strength and underlines the importance of living life on your own terms, not those dictated by others.
A wonderful, innovative, refreshing read that lingers in the mind long after you reach the end of the book.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, touching and funny.,
This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)I wasn't sure how much I wanted to read a book about an abused young Asian woman (the Beauty of the title), written by a white male name of Raphael Selbourne. However,I was wrong to doubt. This is a wonderful book: up-to-the minute, humorous and touching, but tough and clear-eyed in the way it examines the prejudices of all sections of society, including the politically-correct ones of the not-so-admirable middle-class characters. It tellingly depicts multicultural estate life in the Midlands with all the struggling inhabitants who scrape a living on and off the breadline. Selbourne's desriptions are spot-on; you can almost taste and smell Mark Aston's dog-fouled flat. But the novel's not unremittingly bleak; if fact, in spite of its subject matter (abuse, racism, homelessness,unemployment,illiteracy), it's not bleak at all. The characters are funny, warm, and surprise you with their resourcefulness and failure to conform to type. The dialogue is brilliant. Best of all, the eponymous Beauty Begum shows us how a simple and uneducated woman can beat the odds because of her courage, faith, and toughness of character. Beauty the character is a great creation. Beauty the book is too. The Costa judges were not wrong in judging it the best first novel of 2009.
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Club read,
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This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. it prompted much discussion at my book group though there were people who disliked it. I bought the copy on Amazon to keep and to pass on to friends and family. Growing up in Bradford, I found it particularly enlightening.
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping,
This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)I loved this book. I may be biased as it's based in my adopted town of Wolverhampton, but it's nice to see that many other reviewers feel the same way even without this bias. It took some time for me to engage with the narrative as the book starts by building up the character of Mark Aston, not especially likeable as he lives in squalid conditions with his dogs. However as the storyline brings him and Beauty together, their characters bring out the best in each other and evolve in an engaging and moving way. And as Peter and his ex weave into the storyline it becomes more & more 'gripping' - the story has a wonderful combination of lovely prose, a great 'plot', insight and humour. An astonishing feat for a first novel, I look forward to more!
3.0 out of 5 stars Beauty,
This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)Raphael Selbourne's `Beauty' is about a 20-year-old woman from Bangladesh, who grew up in London. At the age of 14, she was taken back to Bangladesh and forced into marriage to a 45 - year - old mullah. Beauty escaped the abusive marriage by feigning madness but found herself fleeing back to the UK to her parent's home in Wolverhampton, surrounding with the thought of having disgraced her family. Forced on-to the job-hunter treadmill and under extreme pressure at home from her older brothers and her parents to earn money for the family, she runs away and decides to make a new life. Along her way her encounter with strangers in the city streets, complicated by the comfort of her language and culture, places her in contact with a number of interesting people through the jobcentre, including Mark Aston, a friendly, Staffordshire bull terrier-breeding ex-offender, who attends the Job seeker course due to his failure in finding a proper, stable job, as well as Marks neighbour Peter. Peter is a middle class underachiever, on the rebound from a bitter relationship, who both wish to show Beauty their kind of worlds.
Mark and Beauty become genuinely fond of one another, as Mark begins to clean up his house and his act; while Beauty gets over the unhealthy clean surroundings of his dogs, Beauty finds herself leaving home and decides to fight for her freedom and examine her beliefs as her family have caused her to have a chilling past, before they continue to ruin her future and tries to discover the possibilities that she could have.
The story by Selbourne is given to us in a direct, unsentimental yet sympathetic way and gives you a view of other immigrant groups, telling readers more about the Asian culture as they have never been known before. A deserving winner of the Costa first novel award, Beauty is a contemporary novel reflecting on an ethically diverse Wolverhampton. Raphael Selbourne captures the inner city life with raw authenticity and is relevant to issues that are current in the UK today.
I like the way the author writes in a conversational tone, by combining the regional accents and the Punjab language captures the cultural differences. With the use of the Punjab language it abandons the reader, to convey the way that Beauty feels isolated and rejected from English culture.
Throughout the thought-provoking novel, the characters go through a beautiful journey of self-discovery, which captivates the reader. At first I was intrigued by the book due to comments made by previous readers, critics and the fact of winning the Costa first novel award in 2009, however I feel the language used throughout was too simple and hasn't been composed with non complex sentence structure in terms of having very short sentences.
I would recommend reading this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice and interesting,
This review is from: Beauty (Unabridged Audiobook) (Audio CD)The story is very interesting, it pictures the problems of a Bengali girl who has been forced to an arranged marriage and her adventures, when she leave home and she meet a lot of other people which manage to influence her and make her think and live differently.
Apart from some of her cruel family member, the rest of the characters are quite likable. The narrator has also done a fantastic job in imitation different accents and switching her accent and voice consistently when talking on behalf of different people. I give a 6* to the narrator. Her Arabic pronuciation is not very good though.
I have just done until CD 7, but it is highly recommended so far.
4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty, A Must Read Novel.,
This review is from: Beauty (Paperback)Beauty is Raphael Selbourne's first novel and is a must read! It isn't a book I would normally read but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! The book explores the lives of working class characters, who are all linked to one another by the main character Beauty.
Beauty is a young Asian girl struggling with the expectations of her Asian family, such as running away from her arranged marriage. Her past is revealed in her personal account of life in Wolverhampton, which includes flashbacks of abuse, deceit and loneliness. Beauty, the black sheep of the family, is sent to attend meetings at the job center to get a job and earn money for the family. She meets Mark there, a lower class and ex-offender from the midlands who is quite the opposite of Beauty. Unlike Beauty, Mark is extremely lazy and attends the Job seeker course due to his failure in finding a proper, stable job. Marks new neighbor Peter, is a recurring character. He is recovering from a recent break-up from his girlfriend, Kate. Peter is middle class and therefore Mark looks up to him and aspires to be his friend. Both Mark and Peter enjoy Beauty's company as her difference attracts them.
The book is quite direct and blunt so when I was reading it, it felt like I was there and part of the story. I like the way the author writes in a conversational tone. The characters speech is written just as how they would pronounce it. However I sometimes found it difficult to understand the midlands dialect, which was frustrating because I didn't understand what was going on in parts of the book. On the other hand when Beauty speaks her native tongue, I found it's quite interesting because I don't know anyone who speaks her language, which is Bangladeshi.
Selbourne writes in first person and changes from one persons perspective to another. This way you get to know the other characters in the book quite well by being exposed to their thoughts behind their actions. The cultural differences are clearly seen, I like the way the Asian culture binds in with the lower class English culture in the book. The dialect of both languages and patterns of speech are included, showing the contrast of the different lives quite bluntly. However as the story continues more similarities are revealed, they both protect each other. Selbourne has done a good job showing the different sides, views and opinions from each character very well, he describes their feelings and shares their thoughts
This book has helped me understand both the positive and negative sides to the Asian culture. I was feeling really empathetic to all of the characters that I might normally ignore or not know in real life. Selbourne does a great job in helping the reader understand the difficulties these people have and their thoughts and feelings, even if they look tough on the outside.
I would definitely recommend people to read this book!
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Beauty by Raphael Selbourne (Paperback - 1 Sep 2009)
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