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The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
Pubished by Faber and Faber, 1990

This is the story of a teenager named Karim growing up in London in the 1970's. He is the son of an Indian father and an English mother. His father, Haroon, is the "Buddha" of the title. Haroon had for years been happy to live like an Englishman but now sees himself as a New Age guru. The book deals with race, marriage breakdown, class and sexual orientation, as narrated by Karim. Can he define his own identity?

In the opening chapter Karim meets Eva, his father's English lover. This has major repercussions for Karim. He is besotted by her son Charlie, a singer who later becomes famous in a punk band. Eva also introduces Karim to important people in the theatre world. As an actor he is asked to play Indian parts and is persuaded to fake a strong Indian accent, much to his embarrassment. The book captures again and again the angst between East and West. The characters are memorable and very well developed, e.g. Jamilla, who is a childhood friend of Karims. Her father Anwar foists a husband named Changez on her. The bizarre situation that develops is at times very funny.

The "Buddha of Suburbia" will not be to everyone's taste. It is irreverent, "in your face", and cynical. However, it deals with race relations in London during this period. It is modern, very funny and thought provoking.

Reviewed by a local Book Club