Zadie Smith’s new novel The Fraud raises the question: are we all faking it in a way?

by Rosemarie Lundgaard

Zadie Smith’s new work of historical fiction, The Fraud, takes place in Victorian London, where housekeeper Mrs. Touchet lives with her cousin, a once-famous writer. It is a time when all of England is captivated by the Tichborne Trial, a case in which a butcher from Australia is attempting to prove that he is the long-lost heir to a huge estate. Touchet absorbs herself in the trial and develops a relationship with the star witness, Mr. Bogle, a man who grew up enslaved in Jamaica and is accustomed to seeing the white and wealthy people around him using false narratives to their advantage. 

Smith tells their intertwining stories as they twist between different social classes and across national boundaries. Used to being a wallflower, Touchet sees the people around her for who they truly are. But more importantly, she also starts to see who they are trying to portray. She suspects her cousin and Bogle of not being authentic, and through the lens of the trial, she starts to see the world for what it really is. Because aren’t we all frauds in one way or another?

Image Via Penguin Press

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