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On Beauty: A Novel Paperback – August 29, 2006
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". . . [A] thoroughly original tale about families and generational change, about race and multiculturalism in millennial America, about love and identity and the ways they are affected by the passage of time. Ms. Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice—at once authoritative and nonchalant, and capacious enough to accommodate high moral seriousness, laid-back humor and virtually everything in between—and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Oh happy day when a writer as gifted as Zadie Smith fulfills her early promise with a novel as accomplished, substantive and penetrating as On Beauty. It's a thing of beauty indeed. In tackling grown-up issues of marriage, adultery, race, class, liberalism and aesthetics, she thrillingly balances engaging ideas with equally engaging characters. As good as she is with big ideas, Smith is even stronger at capturing family dynamics, the heartbreak of broken trust as well as the lovely connections between siblings. —The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty's only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone." —Kirkus Reviews
"Smith's specialty is her ability to render the new world, in its vibrant multiculturalism, with a kind of dancing, daring joy. . . . Her plots and people sing with life. . . . One of the best of the year, a splendid treat. " —Chicago Tribune
"On Beauty is a rollicking satire . . . a tremendously good read." —San Francisco Chronicle
From the Back Cover
"A thoroughly original tale . . . wonderfully engaging, wonderfully observed . . . That rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane."
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A thing of beauty. Oh happy day when a writer as gifted as Zadie Smith fulfills her early promise with a novel as accomplished, substantive and penetrating as On Beauty."
Los Angeles Times
"Smiths specialty is her ability to render the new world, in its vibrant multiculturalism, with a kind of dancing, daring joy. . . . Her plots and people sing with life. . . . One of the best of the year, a splendid treat. "
"Short-listed for [the 2005] Man Booker Prize, On Beauty is a rollicking satire . . . a tremendously good read."
San Francisco Chronicle
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Later edition (August 29, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 445 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143037749
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143037743
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Grade level : 12 and up
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #93,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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The story is about the families of Belsey and Kipps. Dr. Howard Belsey is a white British man who teaches art history at tony Wellington College. He married an African American woman from Florida, who is a nurse. They have three bi-racial children, two in college and one in high school. Howard’s nemesis is Dr. Monty Kipps, who resides in England with his all African American family, including a wife and two young adult children. Tension between the families continue to mount as the children meet and the family members intermingle. To Howard’s great humiliation, Monty is invited to be a visiting professor at Wellington and moves his family into town. Things are not going well at work or at home for Howard and his marriage is in jeopardy. Somehow, he manages to screw up even more in both areas. Affairs, crushes, and misunderstandings abound on campus and at home for both families.
I gave this book three stars because I did not like any of the characters, with the exception of Kiki Belsey, Howard’s wife. Aspects of the plot were enjoyable. Overall I thought that the book was too long and had too many subplots, though the subplots were at least related to the main themes. The portrayal of political and social life on the college campus was one of the better parts of the book. I think that anyone who has worked on a campus will find this funny and accurate. My favorite scene was when the Belsey’s daughter, a student as Wellington, petitions the dean to get into a class after the professor refuses to admit her. In arguing her case, she implies discrimination and invokes the term “inappropriate” thus sending the dean into a fit of near apoplexy. Game, set, and match to Ms. Belsey! There are some stellar sections in this book, just not enough of them.
As some of the critical reviews indicate this is not a universally transferable message, but all those five stars show an audience.
What is education really; what is justice and equity, what is love, what is fidelity, and what effect has aging and insecurity on the male type; and does the female fare any better?
It’s a rambling presentation; I found myself skimming at times until the mounting intrigue, such as it was, locked in my attention -- Perhaps a hundred pages of unneeded detailing.
What she shows so well as how twisted up we can become given our driving internal mechanisms –that’s the fun of it; she knows The Beast.
I recommend this book to anyone who will be sensitive to the author's blending of cross-cultural relationships, academic pretension and the vivid, consuming woman at the center of the novel. She is both fictional and real.
I think the author may be confused about what states in the U.S. are part of the Deep South (versus Southern), but that was very easy to overlook.
Top reviews from other countries
On Beauty is a book where the characters feel real and stay with you once you put the book down. You feel something for so many characters: fondness, envy, hate. And to top it all off, the book says so much about so many topics in a way only good fiction does .. subtly
To be honest, I'm not sure what to think of this book. It's well written. I can see good writing when I read it, and this is really good writing, it's just not much happens here. If this is about the "US Culture Wars", I can see what she was aiming for. It's just I think that could be told better as a factual book. Both Howard, and Monty feel like cardboard cut-outs of either side of an argument. I don't know many atheists who ban Christmas for their kids, for example. If it's about something else, I can't see it. So if you want a well written fictional account of the US Culture Wars, read this book. If you just want a well written family drama (with some humour involved), you'll like this book too. If you want something else maybe you won't like it so much.