Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on August 30, 2006
Zadie Smith has once again created some interesting characters in her latest book "On Beauty". This time she seems to take some delight in sticking some painful pins in their dolls. Death, infidelity, occupational hazards, and theft are all part of a novel which still, despite these difficulties, provides a lot of entertainment. Two mixed race couples (one British and the other American) and their families find both friendship and hostility in their relationships with each other. The two male heads of family, both academics, are pompous bulls who paw the earth, and roar their political disagreements at each other. One is a liberal and the other a conservative, so what else can you expect?

One of the half white, half black sons is so desirous of identifying with his black heritage that his efforts to identify with the black community are often quite comical. A daughter's promiscuity wreaks havoc within the other family. The American father who dearly loves his wife (?) survives one affair that becomes publicly known, and then falls into another one.

Fine writing coupled with an interesting tale makes this an enjoyable book. Yet I was a bit disappointed; this book does not match up to her first novel "White Teeth". Some of the family members lacked definition. Perhaps there's just too large a cast to be able to do justice to without writing a much longer book. And, sadly, this novel lacked the wit of "White Teeth". Ms Smith did have one funny farcical scene when our professor was the guest of a student at a college banquet. It seems that there is something about small choral groups singing in harmony that he finds hilariously funny. Sure enough a choral group marches on stage during this black tie dinner, and starts singing. The prof's reaction to their performance totally embarrasses his student, and himself. To me this was the funniest part of the novel. Smith is an expert at this kind of inanity, and I just wishe there had been more of it. All in all, though, it's a good read.
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