Michael's Reviews > On Beauty

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
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M 50x66
's review
Mar 23, 2009

really liked it
Read in March, 2009

After reading Howard's End, I wanted to go back and reread On Beauty to see if knowledge of the former would help me enjoy the latter. Short version: yes it did.

There's a lot to like about On Beauty. Zadie Smith's prose is a pleasure to read. Her descriptions of fall in the Boston suburbs jibe with my memories, and make me nostalgic. The real strength of the book is in the characters: Kiki and her kids provide the most pleasure. For all the talk about class, race, education, etc., Smith is a real expert at family dynamics. The other dynamics in the book are important and well done, but in the spirit of Forster, it is the family connections that drive the book.

The books biggest failing is in its debates about beauty. Despite the title, I found the passages about academia and the two characters linked to them (Howard and Monty) to be too extreme, bordering on parody in what is otherwise a pretty realistic book. I just can't sympathize with a guy who bans all representational painting from his house.
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