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Beauty by Raphael Selbourne


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Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2010.

The Desmond Elliott Prize is an annual award for a first novel written in English and published in the UK. Worth £10,000 to the winner, the prize is named after the literary agent and publisher, Desmond Elliott. Click here to find out more.

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2009.

Costa Book Awards 2009 Judges' comment: "Captures the raw humanity of inner city life with extraordinary authenticity."

A Bangladeshi girl has fled an abusive arranged marriage and then finds she needs to escape the restrictions of her family, back home in England, and start out on her own. Along the way she meets characters who both surprise and shock. A totally engrossing book - touching, funny and sad.


Beauty by Raphael Selbourne

Beauty – in both name and appearance – is a twenty-year-old Bangladeshi, back in England having disgraced her family by fleeing an abusive arranged marriage. Placed on the jobseekers’ treadmill, and under continuing domestic pressure, in desperation, she runs away.

Her encounters with officialdom, fellow claimants, and passers-by in the city streets, complicated by the restrictions and comfort of her language and culture, place her at the mercy of such unlikely helpers as Mark, a friendly, Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding ex-offender, and Peter, a middle-class underachiever on the rebound from a bitter relationship.

Determined and spirited, yet tormented by doubts, Beauty is forced to examine her own beliefs and think seriously about her future. While her brothers search for her across the city, the conflict between her desire for personal freedom and her sense of family duty deepens. What will she do?

A sharply rendered, compassionate and challenging portrait of a fragmented, multicultural urban England.


'Selbourne’s depiction of the relationship between Beauty and Mark is touching – the innocence of their friendship is unexpected and sweetly convincing.' Observer

'Shocking, explosive and tender – I could not put it down. Selbourne has a brilliant ear for dialogue and real compassion for his characters' Maggie Gee

'Selbourne writes convincingly both of Beauty’s Bengali household and Mark’s working-class world of casual sex, pubs and hard manual labour. Grim and threatening, this first novel is also occasionally very funny' Independent

About the Author

Raphael Selbourne

Born in Oxford within a distinguished academic family, Raphael Selbourne studied politics at Sussex University, before moving to Italy where he was a translator, sold TV advertising and scooters. He has also taught in China and since 2004 in the West Midlands, where he now lives. He interrupted an MA in Islamic Studies at Birmingham University to write Beauty.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd September 2009


Raphael Selbourne

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Tindal Street Press




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