Synopses & Reviews
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.
"In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty's only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[A] boisterous, funny, poignant, and erudite novel that should firmly establish Smith as a literary force of nature." Booklist
"A novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[A] splendid work....With fully realized characters and a kaleidoscope of provocative issues, Smith has created a world you can truly enter. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Smith has the gift of writing crackerjack dialogue....But On Beauty is too long-winded. Its actions, external and interior, don't always warrant its pages and pages of speech or description..." Boston Globe
"[S]plendid and bighearted....This is a 443-page novel you wish were longer — much longer — so that Smith could deepen her rich, marvelous story. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly
"While reading On Beauty it's easy to forget, and sometimes hard to believe, that Zadie Smith is scarcely out of her twenties. Her new novel is masterly on almost any level....E.M. Forster would be proud." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"She brings almost everything you want to the task: humor, brains, objectivity, equanimity, empathy, a pitch-perfect ear for smugness and cant, and then still more humor." Frank Rich, New York Times Book Review
"Chummy and big-hearted, it is also a tremendously good read....[R]ich and entertaining, and in spite of the ugly truths it uncovers, often quite beautiful." Denver Post
Winner of the 2006 Orange Prize for fiction, another bestselling masterwork from the celebrated author of Swing Time and White Teeth
In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty's only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone. --Kirkus Reviews
Having hit bestseller lists from the New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle, this wise, hilarious novel reminds us why Zadie Smith has rocketed to literary stardom. On Beauty is the story of an interracial family living in the university town of Wellington, Massachusetts, whose misadventures in the culture wars--on both sides of the Atlantic--serve to skewer everything from family life to political correctness to the combustive collision between the personal and the political. Full of dead-on wit and relentlessly funny, this tour de force confirms Zadie Smith's reputation as a major literary talent.
About the Author
Zadie Smith was born in Northwest London in 1975 and still lives in the area. She is the author of White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, Changing My Mind, NW, and most recently Swing Time.
Gigi Little on PowellsBooks.Blog
Whether you miss them like crazy or will enjoy a little holiday quiet this year, our families — biological and created — are the foundations of our lives. In honor of that, here are some favorite books that celebrate what it means to be part of a family, in various, often hilarious, ways...