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Kingsblood Royal

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  442 ratings  ·  54 reviews
A neglected tour de force by the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature, Kingsblood Royal is a stirring & wickedly funny portrait of a man who resigns from the white race. When Neil Kingsblood a typical middle-American banker with a comfortable life makes the shocking discovery that he has African-American blood, the odyssey that ensues creates an unforget ...more
Published January 1st 1997 by Random House Inc (T) (first published 1947)
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The Great American Novel
269th out of 404 books — 713 voters
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28th out of 34 books — 1 voter

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I had an English teacher in high school who spoke highly of this book in the late 60's, explaining that it was far ahead of its time in understanding race relations and anticipating their deterioration. I read it years afterward and agreed with her entirely. Lewis, who understood and portrayed the shallow materialism of American culture, also had insights into racial problems, which are sharply dramatized in Kingsblood Royal. There is fine use of irony throughout, starting from the title.

Some writers go out with a fizzle, writing pap until they sputter out to die, and other writers go out with a bang, and damn it doesn't get more explosive than Sinclair Lewis' "Kingsblood Royal". Written with the help of Walter White, President of the NAACP as technical consultant, Kingsblood Royal meets American racism head on and doesn't let up until the 349th page.

A well-to-do young white couple from small town America treat their black maid like a thief and name their dog "Nigger". They're a
Well, published in 1947 by a well known and respected author. I can see why it started a furor and then took a nose-dive into obscurity. I imagine that most Americans of the time (and now) can find themselves in this book and they probably won't like what they see! Waaaaaaay ahead of its time. But, it really shouldn't have been...

Even though the theme is pretty heavy, Lewis writes with light hand and injects humor. I loved Neil's search for who he was, at first just a surface search, and by the
M.K. Hobson
I have often cited Sinclair Lewis as one of my favorite writers, and a huge influence on my own work. Reading "Kingsblood Royal" has helped me get a better handle on what, exactly, I find so admirable about his writing. Not that I think this is his most admirable book; this one is just easier to dissect because it's one of his later works, and by this point he knows what his best tricks are (always some variation on giving the pompous the rope they need to hang themselves with) and he fields the ...more
Neil Kingsblood has been told that his family may have “royal” blood. As a favor to his father, Neil researches his family’s origins. What he learns is quite the opposite of what was expected: Neil has Negro blood.

What follows Neil’s discovery is pure Sinclair Lewis: Neil announces his Negro status to everyone in town. And, as one might imagine, this is neither a popular nor a positive announcement. In fact, this leads to a shunning of Neil and his family.

It is wildly humorous that his fellow re
Apryl Anderson
This was an utterly painful read! I thought that Mr Lewis would never bring us to a happy ending; it seemed as if the antagonism and insults would go on forever! And unfortunately, take away some people's excuse to hate, and they'll come up with another. I remember hearing some of these same pathetic arguments for bigotry when I was growing up, and now it's no longer (primarily) African blood, today's target is sexual preference. That just gets OLD! I'm so tired of the fearfulness disguised as h ...more
Dec 19, 2008 Marian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: high school & older
In its truthtelling about Black-White inequality inside U.S. society and (white as well as Black/mixed race) FAMILIES, this book is the literary equivalent of (German director) Douglas Sirk's 1959 film IMITATION OF LIFE. This was Sirk's LAST U.S. film before he returned permanently to EUROPE. Sinclair Lewis wrote KINGSBLOOD ROYAL about people of Black American/African descent IN MINNESOTA -- communities that like to see themselves as "all-white", where fairskinned Blacks were "passing" as being ...more
Karen Whittingham
I've never read any Sinclair Lewis before, and this book convinced me that the man is an artistic genius. The book is set in a city in Minnesota at the end of the second world war, where a thirty-something white banker is mustered out early due to a leg wound received in Europe. He returns to his job at the bank, his lovely wife and little girl, but his friends are all still away at the front, so his father suggests that to fill his spare time he do some genealogical research into how the family ...more
Powerful, uncomfortable book. I read several Sinclair Lewis books in high school and college - specifically Main Street, Babbitt, and It Can't Happen Here. He had a satiric eye and was not afraid of whom he "insulted." (The town of Anoka, MN - on which he based Main Street - was not fond of him for a long time.) This book was the hardest to read because of its content. It is set at the end of WWII in a large town in north central Minnesota, a town that has a sizable black population because of a ...more
Sinclair Lewis has quickly become one of my favorite American writers of the 20th century. His gift was the ability to not only identify hypocricy and its effects on families and society, but to masterfully place it within a compelling narrative. In Kingsblood Royal, Neil Kingsblood essentially learns in post-World War II Minnesota that he is not the white man he thought he was; that he has Negro blood. In today's society, this would barely be an issue, but at the time the book was written, it w ...more
Kurt Brindley
This is the first Sinclair Lewis book that I have read. It won’t be my last. I had no expectations when, on a whim, I pulled the book off my book shelf and began to read it. What I found was a very progressive read, even for our times, and especially for the time in which it was written and set.

In this story, Neil Kingsblood, the protagonist, a white man by all regards, is prompted by his father to research his ancestry to see if they are born from royalty. What he finds instead, is that he com
Michael Fredette
At the beginning of Kingsblood Royal, Neil Kingsblood, the protagonist of Nobel-laureate Sinclair Lewis's 1947 novel, is a prosperous young banker and recently returned WWII vet in the upper-Midwestern town of Grand Republic. He has a wife named Vestal, a young daughter named Elizabeth (Biddy), and a live-in maid named Belfreda. He is a social success with a seemingly bright future; a pillar of his community. Inspired by family lore, which claims that they are descended from royalty (Henry VIII ...more
Marion Stein
This little fable is probably as relevant and timely now as when it was written. As a "text" it should be used in high schools and colleges when studying the history of racism in this country and trying to understand why exactly it is that the idea of a black man in the White House drives some folks crazy.The edition I read was a paperback, used but in mint condition with a deliciously pulpy cover.
I was amazed by this book. As I read it, I was constantly struck by the thought that this man, Sinclair Lewis, was so far ahead of his time in terms of the way he viewed society and justice. I'm not sure why this book doesn't get more attention as a great one.
Aleksandar Trapara
I struggled with the first two thirds of the book. I wasn't impressed with Lewis's writing style (if you can call it a style): way too many characters (many of whom discussed only briefly and immediately abandoned), the slow-pacedness of an otherwise well-thought-out plot, the abundance of unnecessary dialogues etc.

However, in the last third of the book, Lewis proved that this truly is a work of a genius. It is amazing how he managed to capture the American 1940s fascism, single-mindedness and i
со фи
"Ќе живееме сега па макар и умреле од тоа!"
Greg Brozeit
Neil Kingsblood is an affluent white male who recently returned to the mythical town of Grand Republic, Minnesota after being wounded in World War II. After he settles into his predictable life of a rising bank executive, he is asked by his father, who believes that they have distant relatives in the English royal family, to research his genealogy. Instead Neil learns that his ancestor, thought to be a French voyager, was actually black, which makes him 1/32 black. He keeps the news from his fam ...more
Jennifer Leo
I'm a Sinclair Lewis fan but had never heard of Kingsblood Royal until I happened upon it in the library. Apparently it caused a furor when it was published in 1947 and then fell into relative obscurity. As others have said, it seems ahead of its time in its treatment of race relations, as pale-skinned redhead Neil Kingsblood discovers he has Negro blood, an announcement which shakes up his Minnesota hometown.
Read this a while ago but wanted to add it here.

Agree with the Goodreads review, especially:

"A neglected tour de force by the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature...creates an unforgettable portrayal of two Americas, one black, one white. As timely as when it was first published in 1947...Perhaps only now can we fully appreciate Sinclair Lewis's astonishing achievement."
David Xavier
A tough subject to write about, and a tough subject to read about, but Lewis was talented and pulled me through it quickly. Only a month or two after finishing this book did I look back and think about the somewhat absurd thinking of the protagonist. But that is the point of the book. Put it on your list.
A returned WWII veteran, while researching his family, finds out that he has African-American ancestry. Thought-provoking, nicely paced plot, main characters well-drawn. Should be better-known.
okay yea. (i know you're going to give me flack for all these books Justin. Im prepared)
this book is also ridiculous. Sometimes i wonder how authors come up with these characters.

The novel is deeply psychological because it attempts to get into the mind of a man who's attempt to "embrace" his "heritage" ultimately leads him to exploit and ridicule the very people he desires to help. Lewis really is a genius with this novel.
At times we deceive ourselves into believing that we comprehend and und
This book takes place as WWII is ending. Neil Kingsblood looks into his geneology because his father thinks they may have royal blood. He finds out instead that his mother's grandfather was black. He then must decide whether to keep this secret or reveal that he's black with the negative response that would result for himself, his family, and his daughter. The book deals with racial attitudes at a time when jim crow was intrenched in the south and discrimination in the north wasn't hidden. Sincl ...more
Sara floerke
Although I find Sinclair Lewis to be a bit dry and without enough description, I enjoyed this book much more than Mainstreet. Typical white Minnesotan discovers he has African heritage and all hell breaks loose.

Lewis dares to say things I have heard...but would never put on paper. Good read.
Sinclair Lewis wrote on the "Negro" experience in the same light as Swift wrote on the hunger in Ireland in "A Modest Proposal".

The lead character, Neil Kingsblood, finds through a genealogical search requested by his father that he has "Negro" ancestors. This was through a great-grandather.

The book deals with his journey in releasing this information to the public even though he is white and red-haired. Works through his interactions with different levels of African Americans and whites as he
Lucie Novak
I think this is the best book about racism I ever read. Unforgettable
You would think this was a very "dated" book about prejudice, but it is just as relevant today as when it was written. It's about a man married to a lovely wife and father of some lovely children. This is the '50's and even those with a little black blood in them are ostracized from the rest of society. But Neil Kingsblood has no worries, right? Wrong. He discovers that he had a black great, great grandfather and an American indian grandmother. This news causes him to rethink who he is in light ...more
J.M. Hushour
It's 1944 and white and uptight small-town Minnesota banker Neil Kingsblood discovers he is "part Negro". This sets into motion a vicious spiral of prejudice, hatred, and violence towards Neil on the part of pretty much everyone around him, save for his new "coloured" pals. Thus does Kingsblood "divorce" himself from the white folks. An amazing book, probably one of the most powerful indictments of institutionalized American racism that I've ever read. The racist honkies of the town who turn aga ...more
Janice Todd
This book's been on my shelves for years. Written in 1947, it seems sort of dated, but still valid today as a young married white banker learns through researching his family that he's "black" though his mother's family. At first denying it, but curious, he explores the black life through an acquaintance in high school (a black dentist)... reveals the truth to his wife, his family, friends, employer. Their responses vary and his safe comfortable life gradually disappears. Still valid today, a bi ...more
Wow, just wow, I cannot imagine what kind of reception this book got when it was released.
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Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930 "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H.L. Mencken wrote of him, "[If] the ...more
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