'' The Fraud '' By Zadie Smith : Based on a celebrated 19th-century criminal trial in which the defendant was accused of impersonating a nobleman.

Smith's novel offers a vast, acute panoply of London and the English countryside, and successfully locates the social controversies of an era in a handful of characters.

Chief among them are a widowed Scottish housekeeper who avidly follows the trial and a formerly enslaved Jamaican servant who testifies on behalf of the claimant.

Smith is a talented critic as well as a novelist, and she finds ample opportunity to send up the literary culture of the time while reflecting on whose stories are told and whose are overlooked.

'' As always, it is a pleasure to be in Zadie Smith's mind, which, as time goes on, is becoming contiguous with London itself,'' Karan Mahajan wrote in his review.

'' Dickens maybe dead, but Smith, thankfully, is alive.

EXCERPT : A filthy boy stood on the doorstep. He might be scrubbed of all that dirt, eventually - but not of so many orange freckles.

No more than 14, with skinny, unstable legs like a marionette, he kept pitching forward, shifting soot into the hall. Still, the woman who'd opened the door - easily amused, susceptible to beauty - found she couldn't despise him.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times Book Staff.


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