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On Beauty by Zadie Smith
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On Beauty (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Zadie Smith

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,830None534 (3.63)1 / 425
Member:melydia
Title:On Beauty
Authors:Zadie Smith
Info:Penguin Books (2006), Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Read and Released
Rating:***
Tags:fiction, audio, family drama

Work details

On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2005)

1001 (58) 1001 books (48) 2006 (41) 21st century (53) academia (147) adultery (44) art (34) booker prize shortlist (52) Boston (58) British (141) British fiction (37) British literature (62) contemporary (42) contemporary fiction (75) England (61) family (156) fiction (1,003) literature (67) London (44) marriage (41) New England (38) novel (158) Orange Prize (85) own (35) race (104) read (69) relationships (43) to-read (120) unread (51) USA (40)
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English (163)  Dutch (4)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (170)
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
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 |
I never knew the lives of those in academia could be so interesting until I began On Beauty.

Howard Belsey and Monty Kipps are both Rembrandt scholars and arch academic rivals. After Kipps' daughter, Vee, and Belsey's son, Jerome, had a brief yet eventful courtship, it seemed as if these two families could go back to living peacefully on separate continents. This peace would be short lived. When Monty Kipps accepts a teaching position at Wellington in the same academic environment as Howard Belsey, it turns out to be anything but peace for either family.

While their husbands are assuming fighting positions, Kiki Belsey and Carlene Kipps are forming a friendship. Their new friendship does not strike a balance between the families because the children in each prove to be wild cards. Vee often strays from the Christian value of chastity taught in her home. Zora Belsey is an annoying overachiever with body image and daddy issues. Levi Belsey is trying to shed his privileged background in the land of hip-hop. Jerome Belsey and Micheal Kipps, the oldest sibling of each family, are simply trying to be a support for their family members during all their ups and downs.

Both Howard and Monty proved to be full of hot air that neither of them get tired of spewing everywhere. Of the two it was Howard I despised the most. Not just because of his infidelities but he also seemed to be forever out of touch with his wife and children. Kiki Belsey, an African-American woman from the South, holds the Belsey's together. She puts on strength in the midst of all the Belsey chaos. Carlene Kipps is often pushed aside and overlooked by her family. This oversight proves beneficial in the keeping of a devastating secret.

Zadie Smith does an amazing job with the dialogue in On Beauty. What I enjoyed the most about this novel is the fact that the families had major problems that weren't glossed over. Mothers that didn't have all the answers. Marriages that were anything but fairy tales. Children with issues. In the end, Smith did not put a bow on it. She let it be. Great writing. ( )
  pinkcrayon99 | Oct 28, 2013 |
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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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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.

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