Talia's Reviews > On Beauty

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
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Nov 14, 2007

really liked it
Read in January, 2006

Zadie Smith makes a literary comeback with On Beauty, an ode to EM Forster's Howard's End. Like her first novel, White Teeth, Smith examines the complex lives of two families - the Belseys and the Kipps - battling it out in the fictionalized college town of Wellington. Howard Belsey is a liberal Rembrandt scholar who is on the brink of tearing his family apart after having an affair with a fellow professor. His long suffering wife, the lovable Kiki, tries to keep together the sanity of her three children - Jerome, Zora and Levi. Howard's archrival is Monty Kipps, the ultraconservative Trinidadian academic who comes to Wellington with his sensitive wife, Carlene and their promiscuous offspring, Victoria. Beginning with the rumor that Victoria and Jerome are to wed, the novel is a perfect capsule of the red state/blue state battle in America. This book is the perfect comic relief for anyone still recovering from the 2004 and/or even the 2000 US Presidential election. Any reader can relate to at least one of the characters. Smith gives her readers her version of race, gender, class, art, psychology, religion, family and politics - 21st century style. Lovers of Smith's first book will continue to be proud of this young writer who is beyond her years. Like in real life all her characters have flaws and concerns that they come to terms with in the end. Smith is a remarkable voice in latest crop of new writers. Forster would be most proud.
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