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The Buddha of Suburbia (Faber Firsts) Paperback – 7 May 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 111 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; Special 80th Birthday Edition edition (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571244785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571244782
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,089,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

There was one copy going round our school like contraband. I read it in one sitting ... I'd never read a book about anyone remotely like me before. (Zadie Smith) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Beautiful paperback Faber Firsts edition to commemorate Faber's 80th Anniversary.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Buddha of Suburbia is about Karim, a mixed-race teenager, who is desperate to escape suburban South London and make new experiences in London in the 1970s. He takes the unlikely opportunity when a life in the theatre presents itself playing a character in The Jungle Book. It is darkly humorous coming of age story, with Margaret Thatcher’s reign in English politics about to begin and punk rock exploding onto the underground music scene this all sets the tone and background for Karim’s life which is a semi-autobiographical tale of Kureishi’s. It is well written, the dialogue is excellent and the characters are very believable. Well worth a read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
insightful, funny and a joy to read
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
OK book, not a keeper, but amusing reading.
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Format: Paperback
A great comic novel set in the 1970s, The Buddha of Suburbia is a coming-of-age story centred on Karim. At the start of the story he is a teenager, desperate to escape suburbia. His chance comes when his father reinvents himself as an unlikely new-age guru and runs off with another woman. It did remind me in some ways of Adrian Mole (though it is not written in diary format), particulary the early chapters. There's the same laugh-out-loud observational comedy and dry humour, the same eccentricity, and the same hint of pathos underlying it all. But it's probably a more literary novel than Mole.

Class is an important theme, as is race, but the latter is not made the focus of the book. The differences between the lives and values of the different social classes in Britain are shown to be as big and difficult to bridge as those of race. I liked that the novel took a different angle on the popular culture-clash issue, and presented it in a fresh and original way.

Karim's narrative voice is full of dry wit, and the characters are wonderfully described. Even though some were eccentric, all were believable. The book spans a number of years and is very well paced, showing how characters grow and develop - or stay the same - over time. It is always interesting and entertaining, and you're never too sure what will happen next, although it's not gripping in the conventional thriller sense. Just a minor warning - there's a lot of sex and drugs and punk music - the first quite graphic in places - so the easily offended reader may wish to think again. But it was nothing unreasonable and nothing worse than you'll find in many modern novels.

If you want a book that is funny and that will make you think, this will do the job nicely. It's particularly strong for saying it's a first novel, and I'd be keen to read Kureishi's subsequent works.
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Format: Paperback
For years I was put off reading this book, I thought it had some kind of agenda in mocking suburbanites from an Asian perspective. Well, it does have an agenda - it takes the mick out of pretty much everyone, yes, the Abigail's Party brigade with their worship of central heating and double glazing, the world of Margot and Jerry Ledbetter. But it is even more damning of the Asian community, or perhaps I should say the older generation, who of course would be grandparents today. In particular their misogyny and patriachal nature, and we witness the ebb and flow of power between the sexes.

Some on this site complain about a lack of a plot. Well, I suppose they'd say the same of The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis, it's that sort of narrative. Mainly, it's about a young suburban teenager, Karim, who finds his cosy existance blown apart when his dad, a first generation immigrant who never quite made good, is coopted by the charismatic and ambitious Eva into giving lectures of buddhism and enlightenment. The book is wonderfully observed, and it charts the way Karim hopes to use the tailwind of this development to get away from the boring, suburban life and taste the exotism of the city. There are some very funny lines here, but it's true that the lead narrater doesn't propel events, usually stuff happens to him.

Being a bloke, I'd call it out for a couple of things. Firstly, the narrator has a superiority complex. This is amusing if you also have a bit of a superiority complex. Just about everyone he meets, he skewers in the prose, although of course if Karim were such a naive fellow, coming of age, he wouldn't be that insightful. Really, it's the author who is delivering these verdicts.
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Format: Paperback
Hailing from the borough of Bromley myself (albeit growing up there in a different decade), this book has been on my "I really should read that" list for years. Having finally got round to it (the reading part took only a matter of days, you'll see why below) I thought I may as well do the book the courtesy of setting out my humble thoughts on it.

The pace of the book is quick. It's an uptempo tale taking you from the south London suburbs, to well-heeled Kensington, glamorous New York and back again before you know it. Characters that are bonkers. Characters you'd love to have a beer with. Characters you have an ache in your chest for out of pure sympathy. Characters you would literally do an about turn in the street to avoid.

I don't think it's the place of these reviews to spell out the plot, and other people have taken the trouble in other reviews in any case. But Kureishi captures that longing for meaning and excitement that all (normal) teenagers and people in their early 20s experience, to a tee. People of that age are rightly selfish and need to take things for granted in order to find out what really matters to them.

This book captures that spirit of freedom in life. You never know where you might end up, who with and why. You also never know when you might surprise yourself and just go after something completely different in life to everything you had worked for and previously valued. It's a breath of fresh air and Kureishi's blunt and often brutal prose exploits that essence to the max. He writes it as it is and I like that.

For me the best character in the book is the surburb itself.
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