On Beauty

On Beauty

by Zadie Smith
3.8 53

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Overview

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Howard Belsey, a Rembrandt scholar who doesn't like Rembrandt, is an Englishman abroad and a long-suffering professor at Wellington, a liberal New England arts college. He has been married for thirty years to Kiki, an American woman who no longer resembles the sexy activist she once was. Their three children passionately pursue their own paths: Levi quests after authentic blackness, Zora believes that intellectuals can redeem everybody, and Jerome struggles to be a believer in a family of strict atheists. Faced with the oppressive enthusiasms of his children, Howard feels that the first two acts of his life are over and he has no clear plans for the finale. Or the encore.

Then Jerome, Howard's older son, falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing icon Monty Kipps, and the two families find themselves thrown together in a beautiful corner of America, enacting a cultural and personal war against the background of real wars that they barely register. An infidelity, a death, and a legacy set in motion a chain of events that sees all parties forced to examine the unarticulated assumptions which underpin their lives. How do you choose the work on which to spend your life? Why do you love the people you love? Do you really believe what you claim to? And what is the beautiful thing, and how far will you go to get it?

Set on both sides of the Atlantic, Zadie Smith's third novel is a brilliant analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and an honest look at people's deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780141019451
Publisher: Gardners Books
Publication date: 07/06/2006

About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in Northwest London in 1975 and still lives in the area. She is the author of White TeethThe Autograph ManOn Beauty, Changing My Mind, NW, and most recently Swing Time.

Hometown:

London, England

Date of Birth:

October 27, 1975

Place of Birth:

Willesden, London, England

Education:

B.A. in English, King's College at Cambridge University, 1998

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On Beauty 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
EDNurseDee More than 1 year ago
I read this book because it was on the list of 1001 books to read before you die. Though I'm still not sure why it's on that list, I did enjoy the book. I found that I liked most of the characters, though Kiki was my favorite. I think that it showed that no one really is as they appear to be to others. I also think that Zadie Smith's writing style is excellent. I had no trouble whatsoever following the dialogue and keeping up with what was going on. I would recommend this book to friends who like to read something different.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'd heard lots of hype about Zadie Smith, and I was not disappointed with On Beauty. The book's unconventional opening line had me hooked: 'One may as well begin with Jerome's e-mails to his father:' The son is saving his virginity for marriage because of a new-found Christian faith, and his liberal, British father, a professor, is unamused - particularly when Jerome falls in love with the daughter of his arch-nemesis, a black, right-wing conservative who is anti-affirmative action, homosexuality, women's rights...and then we're off. Smith dexterously explores issues of race, class and culture through the lens of a family, name-dropping from Rembrandt to Tupac. This is a book that will set the benchmark for future 'modern classics.' Here's an example of her writing chops: 'From here she could see the strangely melancholic format of Jerome's text, italics and ellipses everywhere. Slanted sails blowing about on perforated seas.'
AoifeMairead More than 1 year ago
She's a great writer and I love this novel. I don't read novels for plot I read them for language and thinking. This is a fine novel.
VegasMemories09 More than 1 year ago
The name of the title tells it all: On Beauty! I haven't read contemporary fiction before until I joined a class at school and this is one of the books we had to read. The facts to this story are oh-so-real that you feel the emotions for the characters. Excellent!
ElianaUT More than 1 year ago
I loved "White Teeth," but Smith outdid herself with this one. Truly extraordinary--and it stays with you.
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kcarter25 More than 1 year ago
The story revolves around two families that live in Mass. The reader will find the Belseys family with the main character Howard Belsey an Art professor and from the second family; the Kipps there is Monty Kipps. Monty arrives with his family and begins his work at the same university that Howard is employed. In summary these two characters lock horns on various social issues (family life, marriage, faithfulness, etc.) and their strong views are covered in this story that spans over a one year period. I suspect that so far this sounds boring, but the author did weave this subplot (I say subplot because there seemed to be numerous plots where I'm in the middle or I'm just starting another one) into the story to make it very interesting. I use the word "interesting" loosely because I found it difficult to find a lot of empathy for the host of characters, although Zora with her sexual problems did stand out in my memory. The ending was a let down for me. It left me sort of confused, as if there were more pages to the story that needed to be read. Maybe that was intentional by the author. Overall I'm not sure if I would recommend "On Beauty" to my friends. I guess I would have to be very selective if I did opt to encourage someone to buy the book. Maybe, my best bet would be to advise them to check it out at the library.
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Believe it or not, I picked this book up in an America book store in Bosnia. The shop own chatted with me for a few minutes and then pulled this book out. It was a great book. The author pulls you into each character and she makes you reflect on life, especially life on the east coast of the states. Great read!!
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