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Kingsblood Royal

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  498 Ratings  ·  64 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
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published 1947 by Random House (NY)
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Oct 17, 2014 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Dec 29, 2009 Link rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sociology
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.
Feb 21, 2012 Jeanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: minnesota
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
Oct 07, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
M.K. Hobson
Jun 26, 2012 M.K. Hobson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Apr 22, 2013 Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apryl Anderson
Nov 06, 2012 Apryl Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kurt Brindley
Nov 30, 2012 Kurt Brindley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 19, 2008 Marian rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 22, 2009 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lucie Novak
Jan 25, 2016 Lucie Novak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is the best book about racism I ever read. Unforgettable.
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
Apr 19, 2016 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The over-riding thought as I was reading this astonishing book was that no modern publisher would dare to get within ten miles of it. Several years after Lewis had passed the apex of his career, he came out with this brutal satire on the state of race relations in post-WWII America. Longtime resident of Grand Republic, MN, Neil Kingsblood has lived a life like all of his white suburban neighbors. His prejudice toward Grand Republic's (segregated) black community is one of indifference and ignora ...more
Marion Stein
Sep 08, 2012 Marion Stein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Deborah Schuff
Sinclair Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is better known for his novels Babbitt and Main Street. This one was written toward the end of his career. His novels are written straightforwardly and are therefore quickly read, but I think the writing lacks style and is even "reportorial," as I've read. Kingsblood Royal is about racial prejudice in a small town shortly after WWII. I gave it two stars because it was difficult to keep reading the slurs and slanders. ...more
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!"
Nov 16, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
I couldn't put this novel down, which I certainly didn't expect, since my previous dalliances with Lewis were slower reads. Lewis tackles some pretty heavy topics with frank, brutal language to match the attitudes of those he skewers. The novel begins with very dark humor but slowly builds into a violent, frightening conclusion as the protagonist journeys from respected, white middle class banker to mixed race pariah due to the absurd one-drop racial rule. You can see the roots of 60s protest an ...more
Greg Brozeit
Mar 23, 2015 Greg Brozeit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
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
May 17, 2014 Jennifer Leo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 09, 2016 Miloš rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very strong novel...many examples of extreme racism after WW2 in the north of USA. I didn't know that situation was that difficult for black people in that time. This story was told through the eyes of white racist bank clerk who finds out that one of his ancestors was black which makes him 100% in that society. His view changes and he fights the end. This book contains many interesting characters and we'll propably stay in my memory for a while.
Jul 16, 2015 Donnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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."
William Bibliomane
Sinclair Lewis's late problem-novel about race in America, told through the lens of the life of a single man and his family. Kingsblood Royal has the usual problems of construction, but is nevertheless a surprisingly powerful look at a difficult subject.

Full review here:
Wendelin Gray
I've always heard of Sinclair Lewis by reputation, but this is the first book I read by him, and the satire is really great. I have no idea how true to the day it was since it was set in the 1940s, but he handles the characters with a lot of sympathy. Neil Kingsblood is a likeable guy even if he is wrong about things. He and his wife go on a journey into figure out their roles once it is revealed that Neil is really legally a black man, and they're willing to try to do the right thing rather tha ...more
Sep 26, 2015 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very strange novel - cutting edge for its time. On one level, this was an attempt by Sinclair Lewis to deal with white attitudes toward race. I read this one in the 1960s. Not sure how well it holds up today.
David Xavier
Nov 14, 2014 David Xavier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 04, 2014 Rose rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 17, 2008 Jackie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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“Like every thoughtful parent in every age of history, Neil consoled himself, "My generation failed, but this new one is going to change the entire world, and go piously to the polls even on rainy election-days, and never drink more than one cocktail, and end all war.” 1 likes
“In a matter of weeks, he had learned that without suffering and doubt, there can be no whole human being.” 1 likes
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