Akiva's Reviews > On Beauty

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
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May 27, 10


On Beauty is, according to the author, an homage to Howards End and I made a point of reading that before this. I'm not sure it was a good idea. Not that one was necessarily better than the other, but the contrast placed On Beauty's flaws in relief. Howards End was carefully put together and tightly plotted. I didn't get that impression from On Beauty. It's momentum exhausted, it just sort of stopped. All the characters are so wrapped up in their own neuroses that you feel them more as caricatures than human beings (Kiki, the main matriarch, being a notable exception). In Howards End, the overall story is about how cleverness and class aren't as important as human connection. Here, the author is so busy being clever (and she is very clever) that the human connection is missing.

I find that often I start off saying awful things about a book and then go on to say, but it was good anyway. This is no exception. It was quite fun to read. The comedy works wonderfully. The prose is rich and the characters, while flat in some very important ways, are interestingly varied and not just straight from central casting.
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