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On Beauty (2005)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,634218720 (3.64)1 / 535
When Howard Belsey's oldest son Jerome falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing Monty Kipps, both families find themselves thrown together, enacting a cultural and personal war against each other.
  1. 71
    Howards End by E. M. Forster (GCPLreader)
    GCPLreader: Read the novel that On Beauty pays homage to.
  2. 00
    Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie (withwill)
  3. 01
    Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (charl08)
    charl08: One a more 'traditional' campus novel, perhaps, but similar themes re English literature as taught at US colleges.
  4. 02
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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» See also 535 mentions

English (206)  Dutch (4)  Hebrew (2)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (215)
Showing 1-5 of 206 (next | show all)
Oh Zadie. This was amazing. ( )
  jaydenmccomiskie | Sep 27, 2021 |
Never managed to finish this book. Chose it because I liked White Teeth. This story however was too slow moving for me. Did it actually have a plot? Didn't feel like it. Just a lot about family and other relationships--interminably.
On the plus side, it was full of humour so it was a pleasant read whenever I picked it up, just didn't have enough action to make you want to continue. ( )
  amaraki | Sep 12, 2021 |
Definitely witty, but not really lovable. This spot-on satire of the world of universities and academia is laugh-out-loud funny. However, I found most of the characters unlikable, and any attempts to make them relatable - Zora's unrequited crush, for example - just made them seem pathetic. I know that this book is an homage to Howards End, and some scenes are pretty much lifted from the original, but I think it ultimately failed to deliver Forster's message of "Only connect." ( )
  doryfish | Aug 20, 2021 |
On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2005)
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
Mixed feelings about this book. The campus satire is sharp, funny, and quite moving. Howard Belsey is the quintessential portrait of an academic who lives so much in his mind that he has forgotten his heart. But the family relationships in the book didn't ring true to me, and I find professor-student affairs so icky that it's hard to read them. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jun 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 206 (next | show all)
On Beauty" is that rare comic novel about the divisive cultural politics of the new century likely to amuse readers on the right as much as those on the left. (Not that they'll necessarily be laughing in the same places.) Yet Smith is up to more as well: she wants to rise above the fray even as she wallows in it, to hit a high note of idealism rather than sink into the general despair. How radical can you be? Blame it on her youth.
 
Beautifully observed details of clothing, weather, cityscapes and the bustling human background of drivers, shoppers and passers-by are constantly being folded into the central flow of thought, feeling and action, giving even the most mundane moments - Levi riding a bus into Boston, Howard setting up a projector - a dense, pulsing life.
 
On Beauty is quieter. There is a complicated story making up by richness of implication what it lacks in exuberance. The culture of the Boston campus is set among the other cultures such a city harbours. Carl, the outsider who enters the story because of the muddle at the concert, is far from being a replica of Leonard Bast. He’s an exponent of rap culture – and it is a culture, unlike Bast’s pathetic aspirations. The power of his rap has to be explained, and indeed the author intervenes personally to endorse it: ‘the present-day American poets, the rappers’. The mufflered pink-cheeked charm of a New England campus in winter is very agreeably rendered. The row between Professor Belsey and Kiki when she finds out he’s been cheating is as deft as anybody could make it, he with his stumbling, evasive academic dialect and she with her ‘personal’ language and naturally inflexible notions of fidelity and honour.

In a late scene Kiki is sorting out her children’s accumulated belongings. As she is carrying two bags of her elder son’s ‘pre-growth-spurt clothes’, we are told:

Last year, she had not thought she would still be in this house, in this marriage, come spring. But here she was, here she was. A tear in the garbage bag freed three pairs of pants and a sweater. Kiki crouched to pick these up and, as she did so, the second bag split too. She had packed them too heavy. The greatest lie ever told about love is that it sets you free.

What makes this passage brilliant is that the sententia at the end, though it may be true, is somehow made ironical because it is Kiki, there among all the random evidence of her love, who is uttering it, and not some cheat, some intellectual, some person of recognised authority. She is the measure of Zadie Smith’s powers at 30, Forster’s age when he published Howards End.
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zadie Smithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eggermont, MoniqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pouwels, KittyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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We refuse to b each other. H.J.Blackham
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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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When Howard Belsey's oldest son Jerome falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing Monty Kipps, both families find themselves thrown together, enacting a cultural and personal war against each other.

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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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Average: (3.64)
0.5 9
1 46
1.5 12
2 152
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3.5 163
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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