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The Buddha of Suburbia (1990)

by Hanif Kureishi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,784444,106 (3.64)139
Karim lives with his Mum and Dad in a suburb of south London and dreams of making his escape to the bright lights of the big city. But his father is no ordinary Dad, he is 'the buddha of suburbia', a strange and compelling figure whose powers of meditation hold a circle of would-be mystics spellbound with the fascinations of the East. Among his disciples is the glamorous and ambitious Eva, and when 'the buddha of suburbia' runs off with her to a crumbling flat in Barons Court, Karim's life becomes changed in ways that even he had never dreamed of . . .… (more)
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» See also 139 mentions

English (40)  Spanish (3)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Been awhile, read it several years ago, but I remember not having much interest in it once I was done. Well written and fairly straightforward book about difficulties of multiculturalism and classism in England in the seventies, but coming of age stories are always a hard sell for me. Especially when I find the main character unlikable, which I did. ( )
  Ravenwoodwitch | May 2, 2022 |
An interesting story about a young man coming of age in 1970s suburban London - deals with issues of sexuality, class, and race. I enjoyed this book, but it seemed a bit fluffy somehow, even though it dealt with serious issues. Maybe I'll check out the TV miniseries version. ( )
  unsquare | Feb 16, 2021 |
This novel, published in 1990 but set in the 1970s, offers a view of life, love and growing up by Karim Amir, a mixed raced teenaged son of an Asian father and English mother living in Beckenham in the south east London suburbs (in the borough of Bromley, next door to my own borough of Bexley). Karim is a few years older than me, but I can identify with many of his (non-racial) cultural reference points as a fellow product of the 1970s suburbs. This is also of course, though, a novel about the naked racism faced by Asian and black people particularly severely at this time, when the National Front held frequent marches and in an era long before the Stephen Lawrence murder when the police frequently appeared to be, and no doubt in many cases actually were, indifferent to or even casually sceptical of the racist violence suffered by families like the Amirs: "The lives of Anwar and Jeeta and Jamila were pervaded by fear of violence. I'm sure it was something they thought about every day. Jeeta kept buckets of water around her bed in case the shop was firebombed in the night." This is not a heavy novel, though; Kureishi writes with a lightness of touch and a humour about the situations and the very rounded, realistic and believable characters. Their lives are complex - Karim's father leaves his mother and moves in with another white woman, Eva, while Karim's cousin Jamila is forced into marriage with a stranger from India after her father Anwar nearly kills himself on a hunger strike to bend her to his will. I found the first half of the novel in Beckenham very enjoyable, but when Karim grows up, moves to London and gets involved with the acting fraternity, my interest tended to wane; while still written very well, I didn't really care for any of these characters. Karim falls in and out of numerous sexual relationships with both women and men, but still feels somewhat of an outsider. After a brief sojourn with his acting circle in New York, he returns gratefully to London, where despite his problems, he feels much more at home. With its quintessential 70s setting in cultural and political terms, the novel ends with the watershed election of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in 1979. A very good read and a superb recreation of a time and place. ( )
  john257hopper | Oct 11, 2020 |
I picked this one up because it came recommended to me as a novel of place - that place being London in the 1970s. Having recently traveled to London, I felt drawn to dive into a novel in which the story was inextricable from its London setting. This one is that and more. My full review is over here. ( )
  markflanagan | Jul 13, 2020 |
In the early 70's, South London, we meet teenager Karim, the son of an English mother and Indian father, Haroon, whom Karim nicknames both "God" and "Buddha of Suburbia" after Haroon begins leading groups of middle-class English suburbanites in his brand of living room Eastern mysticism. That the woman who is encouraging Haroon in the new career is also seducing him away from his family is obviously to Karim, who wants his family to survive but who also is entranced by both the woman and her handsome teenage son and wants to see what will unfold.
Over the next few years the reader follows Karim as he drops out of college, lies to his parents, gets brutally truthful at times, and has various crushes and encounters with both men and women, and makes good on his pronounced desire to be an actor. There's an awful lot of graphic sex, and some hilarious scenes, especially with Changez, a physically repulsive and lazy man who Karim's uncle was tricked into bringing over from Bombay to marry his daughter and help with the family business. That everyone else loathes Changez just makes him more interesting to the contrary Karim. ( )
  mstrust | Apr 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hanif Kureishiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cotroneo, IvanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robben, BernhardÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, ZadieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost.
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Karim lives with his Mum and Dad in a suburb of south London and dreams of making his escape to the bright lights of the big city. But his father is no ordinary Dad, he is 'the buddha of suburbia', a strange and compelling figure whose powers of meditation hold a circle of would-be mystics spellbound with the fascinations of the East. Among his disciples is the glamorous and ambitious Eva, and when 'the buddha of suburbia' runs off with her to a crumbling flat in Barons Court, Karim's life becomes changed in ways that even he had never dreamed of . . .

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