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Kingsblood Royal

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  618 ratings  ·  86 reviews
A neglected tour de force by the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature, Kingsblood Royal is a stirring and 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 blood, the odyssey that ensues creates an unforgettable por ...more
Published January 1st 1997 by Random House Inc (T) (first published 1947)
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3.96  · 
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 ·  618 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Greg Brozeit
Mar 03, 2014 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
Sep 21, 2014 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 rated it really liked it
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.
M.K. Hobson
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A comfortable Minnesota middle-class family is shaken to its roots -- literally -- when it turns out one of its members has an African-American forebear. Lewis's late-forties novel is a little preachy, but sets out a plausible, if rather strained, scenario. Devotees of Sinclair Lewis will like this novel, and it speaks directly to racial topics and racism that are still very much with us. Not one of his best, though.
Jen Hagan
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As unnerving and uncomfortable and even sometimes totally exasperated as this book made me feel, I enjoyed every minute of it! Kingsblood Royal is superb satire and even though published in 1947, it is still so relevant. Read it if you dare.
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 14, 2012 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
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Kathryn Mattern
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apryl Anderson
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 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
Lucie Novak
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think this is the best book about racism I ever read. Unforgettable.
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is at least the third time I've read this novel and each time I'm blown away by how insightful Lewis about race relations in America. Sadly his insightfulness exposes how ugly things were in 1947 and how many correlations there are to today. Neil Kingsblood, a veteran of WWII, returns home to Grand Republic, Minnesota after the war, and because he was wounded and now has a slight limp, his father suggests that he should do some family genealogy since he now can't play sports. His father thi ...more
Michael Fredette
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 08, 2012 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.
Brent Legault
Dec 12, 2010 rated it did not like it
A cardboard cut-out puppet show would have been more realistic, more convincing and infinitely more interesting than this, this parade of soul-starved mouthpieces.
Mark Feder
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the old days when I attended high school, Sinclair Lewis was a mainstay in English classes, and we read Main Street and Arrowsmith. I thought of Lewis as a chronicler of mainstream American life, a life different from what I knew growing up in the Bronx. Just like TV shows such as Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver portrayed families that I took to be normal American families that were different from my own, I thought of Lewis as portraying the real America and that I was experiencing s ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
In this hilarious book Sinclair Lewis tackles race relations, considering the book was published in 1947 Lewis was generations ahead of his time. I'm not sure why I didn't enjoy this book more. I found it an important book for its time and still very much relevant today, but for some reason it failed to keep me wanting more. From page 200 onward I just wanted it to end. Perhaps it's because I loathe racism? or maybe I was distracted by a book delivery in the mail that I'm looking forward to devo ...more
Eliot Boden
Incredible. Kingsblood Royal is the story of the political and social awakening of Neil Kingsblood, a white middle-class nobody who accidentally discovers that he has black ancestry. Sinclair Lewis continues to amaze me with his perception as a critic and his abilities as a storyteller. The novel is set in Minnesota in 1944 and while the intolerance of the time is captured perfectly, I wonder how much (or how little) the story would change were it set in the present day. Highly recommended.
Sandi Davis
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
We read Kingsblood Royal for bookclub. It is a very wordy, difficult book to read, was good to have on the nightstand because it put me to sleep. Aside from that, keep in mind this is written in 1947 and is about race relations. It is a sad state of affairs when there are too many situations when the same problems have continued, maybe not as drastic as what happened to Kingsblood when he went public with finding he had Negro blood, but they are still there.
Victoria Grusing
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Really enjoyed this book. It shows, there actually has been some growth in the intelligence of bigoted Americans since the time the book has written. There is so very much further to go in the road to intelligence about people who are just wearing a different colored skin or hair or religion. If only the brains were taught from the beginning, we would all have a better world.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was excellent. A young married white man becomes interested in his family's history, and finds out that he had a black ancestor. At first he's afraid, but he's brave and kind, and he sets out to learn about being black.
I had no idea the phrases "Afro-American" and "coming out" were at least as old as 1947.
Mukund Gnanadesikan
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.25 stars

Not as flowing and engaging in its prose as most of Lewis' novels. And the end is way too melodramatic. But Kingsblood Royal was an extremely audacious work at its times, even banned for some years by people who were uncomfortable about the truths with which it deals. In my opinion, the book should be taught more frequently in college American Literature classes.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this only because I was looking for a book published the year I was born. I note from Wikipedia that some Americans wanted this withdrawn from publication at the time. Hard to read because of the prejudice on every single page... but an interesting find. writing style a little dated, but content good.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved it. A gem. Should receive more praise than it does, which is zero.
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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
“In a matter of weeks, he had learned that without suffering and doubt, there can be no whole human being.” 3 likes
“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.” 2 likes
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