Zadie Smith's "On Beauty" is a funny, powerful and moving story about love and family. Why do we fall in love with the people we do? Why do we visit our mistakes on our children? What makes life truly beautiful? Set in New England mainly and London partly, "On Beauty" concerns a pair of feuding families - the Belseys and the Kipps - and a clutch ...
Zadie Smith's "On Beauty" is a funny, powerful and moving story about love and family. Why do we fall in love with the people we do? Why do we visit our mistakes on our children? What makes life truly beautiful? Set in New England mainly and London partly, "On Beauty" concerns a pair of feuding families - the Belseys and the Kipps - and a clutch of doomed affairs. It puts low morals among high ideals and asks some searching questions about what life does to love. For the Belseys and the Kipps, the confusions - both personal and political - of our uncertain age are about to be brought close to home: right to the heart of family. "The novel I didn't want to finish, I was enjoying it so much". (John Sutherland, "Evening Standard"). "Thrums with intellectual sass and know-how". ("Literary Review"). "Delightfully entertaining ...filled with humour, generosity and contemporary sparkle". (Alex Clark, "Daily Telegraph"). "My novel of the year ...Delicious". (Liz Jones, "Evening Standard"). "Satirical, wise and sexy". ("Washington Post"). "Heartstopping". ("The Times Literary Supplement"). "A triumph, Smith's comedy shines". ("Daily Mail"). "Ambitious, hugely impressive, beautifully observed". ("Guardian"). Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975. Her debut novel, "White Teeth", won the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Guardian First Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers' First Book Prize, and was included in TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Her second novel, "On Beauty", was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has written two further novels, "The Autograph Man" and "NW", a collection of essays, "Changing My Mind", and also edited a short-story anthology, "The Book of Other People".
With each page of this book, I became more deeply involved with the story. The language was spectacular and the humor was sophisticated. There were several times I laughed aloud because of clever puns and quick wit. I loved the characters and how the story evolved. The only thing that I slightly disliked is that the drama escalated too much and was drawn out for two long. Smith could have cut the book in half and still had an excellent story. As it became more complicated and complex, it was more difficult for my mind to follow and actually became stressing.
However, I adore the quality of this book, it is a very rich read and I highly recommend it.
Jun 17, 2008
Smart and sassy
This book was my introduction to Zadie Smith, and I still can't believe people haven't told me about her before. I am trained as a family therapist, and Smith captures the subtle and not-so-subtle quirks of family life with accuracy and style. A fresh, captivating read for lovers and haters of American culture.
Jan 22, 2008
Smith has the gift of creating beautiful and flawed characters - ones we love and hate simultaneously. Beyond the references to E.M. Forster and Rembrandt, she challenges her audience to question the value of beauty and the role it places in our lives. On Beauty is a superbly written novel, with the poetry of Nick Laird gracing its pages.
Jul 9, 2007
Smith's best novel so far
All of Zadie Smith's novels are brilliant, but On Beauty surpasses her earlier works for prose style, rhythm, character development, and plot movement. Everything about the novel is pitch perfect, and her loving satire on the academy matches the best of A. S. Byatt and David Lodge.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-12-05 This is a superb novel, a many-cultured Middlemarch, but it's a rough one for an actor. James juggles a large cast of Brits and Yanks, middle- and working-class white, African-American, West Indian and African men and women, as well as street teens, wannabe street teens and don't-wannabe street teens. James has a beautiful, deep voice that at first seems antithetical to Smith's ship of fools, but he enhances the humor and pathos with vocal understatement. He helps give characters their rightful place in the saga. The parade of characters swirl around two antagonistic Rembrandt scholars in a Massachusetts college town. Howard Belsey is a self-absorbed, working-class British white man married to African-American Kiki and father to three cafe-au-lait children. Monty Kipps is a West Indian stuffed-shirt married to the generous Carlene, with a gorgeous daughter, Veronica. The book is funny and infuriating, crammed with multiple shades of love and lust, midlife and teenlife crises. Class, race and political conflicts are generally an integral part of a story that occasionally strays from its center. The theme of beauty as counterpoint to individual, family, cultural and social foibles and failures ribbons through the novel and wraps it up, perhaps to say that Beauty is, finally, the only Truth. Simultaneous release with the Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 1) (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-08-01 Truly human, fully ourselves, beautiful," muses a character in Smith's third novel, an intrepid attempt to explore the sad stuff of adult life, 21st century-style: adultery, identity crises and emotional suffocation, interracial and intraracial global conflicts and religious zealotry. Like Smith's smash debut, White Teeth (2000), this work gathers narrative steam from the clash between two radically different families, with a plot that explicitly parallels Howards End. A failed romance between the evangelical son of the messy, liberal Belseys-Howard is Anglo-WASP and Kiki African-American-and the gorgeous daughter of the staid, conservative, Anglo-Caribbean Kipps leads to a soulful, transatlantic understanding between the families' matriarchs, Kiki and Carlene, even as their respective husbands, the art professors Howard and Monty, amass mat?riel for the culture wars at a fictional Massachusetts university. Meanwhile, Howard and Kiki must deal with Howard's extramarital affair, as their other son, Levi, moves from religion to politics. Everyone theorizes about art, and everyone searches for connections, sexual and otherwise. A very simple but very funny joke-that Howard, a Rembrandt scholar, hates Rembrandt-allows Smith to discourse majestically on some of the master's finest paintings. The articulate portrait of daughter Zora depicts the struggle to incorporate intellectual values into action. The elaborate Forster homage, as well as a too-neat alignment between characters, concerns and foils, threaten Smith's insightful probing of what makes life complicated (and beautiful), but those insights eventually add up. "There is such a shelter in each other," Carlene tells Kiki; it's a take on Forster's "Only Connect-," but one that finds new substance here. Agent, Georgia Garett at A.P. Watt. (Sept. 13) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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