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On Beauty by Zadie Smith

On Beauty (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Zadie Smith

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,901171525 (3.63)1 / 433
Title:On Beauty
Authors:Zadie Smith
Info:Penguin Books (2006), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Pima County Public Library, pcpl, Joel D Valdez Main Library Staff Picks, comedy, academia, marriage, infidelity, politics, race

Work details

On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2005)

1001 (59) 1001 books (48) 2006 (41) 21st century (53) academia (148) adultery (44) art (35) booker prize shortlist (52) Boston (58) British (141) British fiction (36) British literature (66) contemporary (42) contemporary fiction (77) England (63) family (158) fiction (1,009) literature (67) London (46) marriage (43) New England (39) novel (159) Orange Prize (86) own (37) race (105) read (71) relationships (44) to-read (128) unread (51) USA (41)

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English (161)  Dutch (4)  Hebrew (2)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (170)
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
It took me a while to get into this book but I found the middle engaging and I loved the writting style. The end however was a bit like watching a car crash happen in slow motion as various characters destroyed their lives through bad decisions. I just didn't enjoy watching it all fall apart and I was left with a feeling of emptiness after reading. I'm glad I read to the end, but not a book I would reread. ( )
  eclecticdodo | Jun 28, 2014 |
Nothing beautiful here. ( )
  bibliostuff | Mar 20, 2014 |
I really enjoy Zadie Smith. Actually, I was buying books for a library when this was reviewed, and I was pregnant. I kept seeing that name *Zadie*, so I named my daughter Zadie Elizabeth.
  rfewell | Feb 5, 2014 |
Zadie Smith’s third novel focuses on two rival academics, Howard Belsey and Monty Kipps, and their respective families. While these two men are feuding, their wives are making friends and their children are struggling with adolescence and responsibility. There are too many threads to cover here, but this is a story of family, race, infidelity, forgiveness, unrequited feelings, and much more.

I really REALLY enjoyed this book. The characters seemed so completely real, each with their positive and negative, but always very human traits. They may not always have been likeable (I actually found Howard Belsey to be never likeable), but they were identifiable.

Smith writes so beautifully, with such a wonderful, spot-on turn of phrase. She also has an incredible eye for observational humour, with sometimes just a few words or one line making me laugh out loud. At times I was frustrated with the characters, at times angry, and sometimes sympathetic, but whatever my feelings, I always wanted to know what was going to happen to them.

It’s not a story with a neat beginning, middle and ending – things are not necessarily wrapped up neatly; it’s almost like a snapshot of a certain period of these families’ lives. I thoroughly enjoy it, and definitely recommend it. ( )
  Ruth72 | Dec 23, 2013 |
Love Zadie Smith's writing, especially as this novel was in a familiar setting (Wellesley). The Virgin Megastore! Really loved Kiki, Howard's wife. The story was so-so, infidelity on college campuses... Inner city kids not feeling at home on said campuses. But she writes like a dream. ( )
  KymmAC | Nov 4, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
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For my dear Laird.
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One may as well begin with Jerome's e-mails to his father.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
En grotesk og morsom beretning om fjendskabet mellem to kunsthistorikere. Om universitetsliv, om kærlighed og sex og om at blive voksen.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143037749, Paperback)

In an author's note at the end of On Beauty, Zadie Smith writes: "My largest structural debt should be obvious to any E.M. Forster fan; suffice it to say he gave me a classy old frame, which I covered with new material as best I could." If it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Forster, perched on a cloud somewhere, should be all puffed up with pride. His disciple has taken Howards End, that marvelous tale of class difference, and upped the ante by adding race, politics, and gender. The end result is a story for the 21st century, told with a perfect ear for everything: gangsta street talk; academic posturing, both British and American; down-home black Floridian straight talk; and sassy, profane kids, both black and white.

Howard Belsey is a middle-class white liberal Englishman teaching abroad at Wellington, a thinly disguised version of one of the Ivies. He is a Rembrandt scholar who can't finish his book and a recent adulterer whose marriage is now on the slippery slope to disaster. His wife, Kiki, a black Floridian, is a warm, generous, competent wife, mother, and medical worker. Their children are Jerome, disgusted by his father's behavior, Zora, Wellington sophomore firebrand feminist and Levi, eager to be taken for a "homey," complete with baggy pants, hoodies and the ever-present iPod. This family has no secrets--at least not for long. They talk about everything, appropriate to the occasion or not. And, there is plenty to talk about.

The other half of the story is that of the Kipps family: Monty, stiff, wealthy ultra-conservative vocal Christian and Rembrandt scholar, whose book has been published. His wife Carlene is always slightly out of focus, and that's the way she wants it. She wafts over all proceedings, never really connecting with anyone. That seems to be endemic in the Kipps household. Son Michael is a bit of a Monty clone and daughter Victoria is not at all what Daddy thinks she is. Indeed, Forster's advice, "Only connect," is lost on this group.

The two academics have long been rivals, detesting each other's politics and disagreeing about Rembrandt. They are thrown into further conflict when Jerome leaves Wellington to get away from the discovery of his father's affair, lands on the Kipps' doorstep, falls for Victoria and mistakes what he has going with her for love. Howard makes it worse by trying to fix it. Then, Kipps is granted a visiting professorship at Wellington and the whole family arrives in Massachusetts.

From this raw material, Smith has fashioned a superb book, her best to date. She has interwoven class, race, and gender and taken everyone prisoner. Her even-handed renditions of liberal and/or conservative mouthings are insightful, often hilarious, and damning to all. She has a great time exposing everyone's clay feet. This author is a young woman cynical beyond her years, and we are all richer for it. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:54 -0400)

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Howard Belsey, a Rembrandt scholar who doesn't like Rembrandt, feels that the first two acts of his life are over and he has no clear plans for the finale.

(summary from another edition)

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