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on 23 May 2017
insightful, funny and a joy to read
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on 28 October 2015
OK book, not a keeper, but amusing reading.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 September 2009
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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on 8 June 2012
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. It is a very satisfying method, it's the old Clark Kent/Superman duality, where one minute you can step out of your put-upon self and feel supreme. Even PG Wodehouse did it, as a lot of the very funny lines ('She had a laugh like the cavalry crossing a tin bridge') would be beyond a chump like Bertie Wooster. To be fair, Karim would be the sort who slyly keeps his own counsel about certain types, a goalhanger in life.

Secondly, the sex is a bit out there. Kureishi seems to using promiscuous sex to turn on the reader, fair enough, but it's as if he being less well observed here. I'm not sure the type of bloke we have depicted here would get it so much, even if he is good looking. Certainly he's very relaxed about his bisexuality, there never seems to be any doubt if another bloke will be up for it.

Thirdly, the timeline is a bit out of wack. The events seem to call for a story over a two-year period, but we go from Beatles Abbey Road period to Bowie, then punk and The Pretenders. The Pretenders only got going in 1978! The author's reach seems to exceed his grasp, as if he's aiming for an epic along the lines of Our Friends in the North. I wasn't too sold on one of the characters becoming a major rock star either, it breaks the suspension of disbelief, we know it didn't happen, unless it's true the guy is Billy Idol (it seems to fit) and the author didn't want to get sued.

Anyhow, I read this in a week and loved it. Surprised to see it is on the syllabus, more books like this should be in my view. It shouldn't be all Dickens and Austen.
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on 17 September 2009
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. As a surbabnite who is strangely simulatenously proud and ashamed of the fact, Kureishi just nails the surburban environment with all its unknown rules, hierarchies and bizareness. Even though the Three Tuns pub referred to in the book, is now a faceless chain Italian restauarant, the social snobbishess held by those who live in Chislehurst to those that slum it in Penge remains as true as ever.

The character he creates in the suburb itself just provides the most compelling backdrop for the characters and plots placed on top.

A great read that manages to be both funny and beautifully written. A great combination you don't always find.
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on 22 January 2017
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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on 10 January 2017
Got to the scene where he is watching his father having sex with some woman and decided enough was enough.
Not for me
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on 11 November 2016
Good read highly recommended rt you io we rt go BB we qw do
Vb ty er rt go nj kid lol
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 August 2017
An entertaining tale of a young mixed-race Londoner - father a Muslim Indian, mother English- growing up in the 1970s. When his father is taken up by the artistic Eva, and becomes something of a local celebrity with his yoga seminars, our hero, Karim, sees a new and exciting world opening up, even as he pities his mother, left behind. The whole feel of the era is well-drawn - the craze for the new and exotic, the sex, drugs and music, but also the racism and political discontent.
There are some great characters here: the strong-minded Jamila, long-suffering immigrant Changez, and many pretentious types whom Karim encounters through the theatre.
Enjoyable read.
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on 9 October 2011
Really enjoyed this book, but I did watch the t.v series before, don't know if that helped me visualize it better just love the 70's backdrop . Oh' the story nearly forgot, young mixed race boy Karim living in the suburbs of south London, his father holds some sort of Indian meditation classes and has a fling with someone, he then decides to move out with his new and more sophisticated partner who moves them to central London . The sexually ambiguous Karim is in awe of his new 'step brother' who becomes involved in the punk movement and ends up a success living in New York. Meanwhile Karim persues an acting career, sorry can't give anymore of the story away, you will have to read it yourself .
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