Skip to main content

Review: On Beauty, by Zadie Smith


In Zadie Smith's third book, On Beauty, she returns to the woderful storytelling that she showed in White Teeth. This time she brings the story to America, to the fictional Wellington College, in Massachussetts.

Howard Belsey is an Art History professor there, specializing in 17th century art. He is an Englishman, married to a woman from the Carribbean, Kiki. Their marriage is based upon that in E.M. Forster's Howard's End (a book that I strongly suggest reading, or re-reading, after or before you have read this one). However, instead of a mixed-class marriage, theirs is a mixed-race marriage. Kiki and Howard have three children: Jerome, who remains firmly fixed in the white world of their father; Levy, who maintains a black identity; and Zora, a brilliant student at Wellington, who is stuck in the middle between black and white. How their try to reconcile the difference is at the heart of this wonderful novel.

Their peace is shattered when Monty Kipps comes for a short stay to teach at the college. He is a professor of Black Studies, and married to a white woman. Monty and Howard are professionally at odd ends, and they bring their rivalry to the front during faculty meetings. This is a wonderful story, with mixed and hidden messages. It's not a book for everyone. Reading Howard's End will help to partially solve some of the mysteries that this book contains.

Comments

Teddy Rose said…
I got about a quarter way through this book and had to take a break from it. I will get back to it when I'm more caught up with my ARC and library reading.
Nymeth said…
I haven't read Howard's End, but I LOVED this book. And I'm very interesting in picking up Foster's novel and seeing how it affects my understanding of On Beauty.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…