Read On Beauty by Zadie Smith Online


On Beauty by Zadie Smith, author of the prize-winning White Teeth, is a funny, powerful and moving story about love and family. Why do we fall in love with the people we do? Why do we visit our mistakes on our children? What makes life truly beautiful? Set in New England mainly and London partly, On Beauty concerns a pair of feuding families - the Belseys and the Kipps - aOn Beauty by Zadie Smith, author of the prize-winning White Teeth, is a funny, powerful and moving story about love and family. Why do we fall in love with the people we do? Why do we visit our mistakes on our children? What makes life truly beautiful? Set in New England mainly and London partly, On Beauty concerns a pair of feuding families - the Belseys and the Kipps - and a clutch of doomed affairs. It puts low morals among high ideals and asks some searching questions about what life does to love. For the Belseys and the Kipps, the confusions - both personal and political - of our uncertain age are about to be brought close to home: right to the heart of family....

Title : On Beauty
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780241142936
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 445 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

On Beauty Reviews

  • Kinga
    2019-02-26 02:07

    Before we talk about Zadie Smith, let’s talk about me first. Here issomething you should know – I was a serious book-worm up until I turned 16 (more or less) at which point I lost all interest in anything that wasn’t parties, boys, alcohol, drugs or sex. There, I said it. For the next five years my brain didn’t see much action (I somehow managed to finish high school and got accepted into the University of Warsaw but generally I found education a big distraction to my social life). I was about 21 when finally the fog surrounding my brain cleared a little and I decided to go to my local library. I had no idea what to read or how to choose. I was just browsing idly when I saw a book called ‘White Teeth’ with an interesting cover. I checked it out, went home and started reading. Soon I was mesmerized. I had no idea there were books like that, that there were stories like that and that people were telling them. I can’t quite recall now what it was about ‘White Teeth’ that spoke to me so but it was as if a curse was lifted and I could read and use my brain again.For this OCD reason or another, a decade had to pass before I read another Zadie Smith’s book. I am more cynical now and not so easily impressed as I was back then. I felt l could see what Smith was doing there; I was onto all her tricks. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book tremendously. All this mixing of race, politics, academia, art, love and death – what’s not to love? Even if some of the observations were not particularly revelatory to me I have to give it to Zadie – she knows how to write people. That’s what the characters in ‘On Beauty’ were – people, rather than characters. They were so well put together I feel I would recognize them if I chanced upon them at a party (you know, I still go to parties). Zadie Smith is at the same cruel and merciful towards her subjects. She won’t hesitate to point out all the silliness of their lives but allows us to feel compassion for them and look upon their futile attempts to practice what they preach with forgiveness.Also the climax was quite astonishing. I begin to believe that the ability to write a good climax, to make the reader understand you knew exactly what you were doing from page one is exactly what separates great writers from everybody else. But we shouldn’t forget humour either:‘[…] A brother don’t need a gate – he jumps the fence. That’s street.’‘Again, please?’ said Howard.‘Street, street,’ bellowed Zora. It’s like, “being street”, knowing the street – in Levi’s sad little world if you’re a Negro you have some kind of mysterious holy communion with sidewalks and corners.’And descriptions. Here is my personal favourite (for obvious reasons):The African women in their colourful kenti cloths, the whippet blonde with three phones tucked into the waistband of her trucksuit, the unmistakeable Poles and Russians introducing the bone structure of Soviet Realism to an island of chinless, browless potato-faces, the Irish men resting on the gates of housing estates like farmers at a pig fair in Kerry… Bone structure! You can thank us for that later.

  • Aubrey
    2019-03-03 01:12

    When I say I am not a people person, I mean I can find five reasons to hate someone, anyone, within ten minutes of meeting them in real life. As consequence of this and the desire to not let overwhelming anger ruin my life, I am always putting myself in the other's place, years of which have both calmed me down and sharpened my analysis to the quick. However much I initially dislike you, I will always, always, always respect you, and if you're not a complete and utter asshole and/or hypocrite who never seriously considers what others have to say, I will reconcile myself with you in short order. The same goes for personas in books, which is why the whole concept of "likable" characters makes me laugh. If I factored that into my evaluation of literature, I'd be left with very few successes.Despite what many of these reviews complain about, most of these characters are not assholes. Hypocrites, yes, but with a realness with which neither they nor the author may be condemned for. One of them is indeed a very typical asshole, but in such a fully explicated way that he is wielded as a veritable scythe through the ivory tower insipidity that is academia. This straight white male is a professor, a critic, a derider of custom and slayer of sentiment, so liberal in politics and so solipsistic in existence, able to get by in a world that encourages education without empathy at every turn in order to churn out glorified hipsters in the highest echelons of college campuses all across the US. In his eyes, nothing is sacred except for his dick, far more emblematic of a flawed society spewing out the same shit different days than any fault of the author, and which would hardly prove for a uniquely inspiring narrative had Smith not populated his world with characters that called him out on it at every turn. This includes the much objectified woman of his desires, who despite never having a share of that third person point of view is nothing less than fully and heartbreakingly human. Now that takes true writerly talent.Now, I loved Howards End, I did. However, the ending was too clean, too circumspect, too full of its own glorious aspirations to really ponder the implications of demographics on personal relations, and ultimately in great need of satirization. Teaching that book to students today will give you exuberant know nothings with nary a thought as to the twisting of privilege in the smallest facet of daily life, a truth fended off every second of every hour with empty courtesy, gentrified fortresses, and the avoidance of certain subjects. Politics, religion, pay check. Beware of the other side of the fence, less you find out how much and how so you use and are used. There's no success there, neither your money nor your life.Liberalism tries. As Smith displays in full, liberalism tries, but is easily co-opted without complete understanding, or even the willingness to understand, for it is one thing to condemn racism and sexism and everything else and quite another to view one's life through the paradigm forever on. It is tiring, it is hard, and quite frankly who has time for all that when there's a 40+ hour work week and kids and taxes and pull up your bootstraps 'cause no one's ready or willing to coddle you no matter how much your nature and nurture screwed you over long before you were born. Never mind your beautiful passion for what society considers wrong for all the wrong reasons. Never mind the judgment based on white heternormative masculinity, women deepening their voice in speaking classes, black men fending off the fearful stares with constant reassurance, both expending energy that could have been wonderfully devoted elsewhere if not for their body and soul.In the end, hate people if you will. Hate them, but always grant them reason to live. Always grant them reason to exist in your eyes, regardless of what promotions they have the power to make possible, what length of your time they are worth based on the connections you hypothesize out of the tone of their voice and color of their skin, how much you can squeeze out of them before going back to that circle habituated to whatever power you have as a youth/mother/daughter/father/son you call family. You have the right to living your life without actively seeking out danger, but do not avoid a chance to communicate out of guilt, or shame, or entitlement. You were compromised coming into this world by both privilege and oppression; you will gain nothing by splintering off in your own little bell jar of social justice.If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it.-Zora Neale HurstonHumans are social creatures. There is, despite the hypocritical politickings, something beautiful worth living for in the halls of thought. Rome wasn't built in a day. In other words, go listen to some rap, or whatever other medium you have closed yourself off from without ever really knowing why or considering what drives your fellow human beings who so rapturously partake of it. Talk is cheap, silence is death, and we might as well like or dislike the tomato while explaining why; something may come of it yet.

  • Helene Jeppesen
    2019-03-01 04:57

    Contrary to a lot of people's opinions, I loved this book! The first couple of chapters were unpredictable and refreshing, and the rest of the book was an amazing story about family life, marriage problems, racism, growing up, and beauty. I loved every single character, and while especially one of them behaved irrationnally, it was entertaining and informative to read about his decisions and the ensuing repercussions. "On Beauty" was one of those books that grabbed me from beginning till end, and while I've only read one other novel by Zadie Smith, this one has been my favourite so far. It was easy to read and yet a very universal book that I think everyone can benefit from reading - even though it does seem that some people don't really like this novel at all.

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-03-04 04:21

    This is a book full of unbeautiful people: obnoxious teenagers, philandering academics, stuffy professors, right-on street rappers, wispy rich kids and more obnoxious teenagers. Zadie takes a scalpel to Anglo-American academic relations, probing away at the race/class issues with her usual mordant unflinching cruelty and compassion. She plants a series of depth charges in the lives of her wibbling characters, watching them each explode in turn into quivering heaps of gloopy suet. As ever, the ride is a scream.

  • Fabian
    2019-03-05 03:12

    Smith accomplishes much in this, her third novel. "Autograph Man" was sadly not memorable enough & "White Teeth", the novel that quickly turned her into the valedictorian of all modern young writers, was epic but also did not engage me too much. "On Beauty" is exceptionally readable, relevant/modern, complicated, witty. She has honed her skills, & one must be a 'lil jealous.Like I told G. just yesterday: it contains that Middlesexian moment of profound awe. Modern novels, at least those that are implemented into the canon (think: The Poisonwood Bible, The Corrections...), must either have that moment where a tear kinda materializes because emotions are too vivid, or because the scene contains awesomely understated beauty. "On Beauty," on second thought, has both. If I reveal that the scene where once was there was a closet-full of colorful clothes and now only a suit remains... well I don't reveal too TOO much. This is well written, poignant.I must say that I AM a fan of Smith. Before I would say it too bluntly, I guess because that was en vogue. But after reading this novel, in close competition with "The Corrections" as the Great (American....British) Novel (version: 21 st century), I honestly say I can't wait for the next one. On "On Beauty"'s fate: It will be harvested for its amazing prose, insightful jewels of paragraph, and transplanted onto Sophomore-level English textbooks to be read by future generations.

  • Audrey
    2019-03-06 01:20

    I'm beginning to think the problem isn't the books, but me. I was really, really primed to like this book. Not only had one friend spoken favorably of it, another had seen to it that the book was carried all the way from Malawi, Africa to New York and then sent to me. I am embarrassed to report I had a hard time even finishing it. My primary complaint is contrivances. The dialogue was unnatural to me...and the plot, my goodness. It was hard enough to believe in such a deep academic feud between the father and his rival...but then the rivals move down the street and the feud continues but the moms are friends so when one of them dies and they just all HAPPEN to be near the same part of England the Belsey family attends the funeral and Howard does it with the same girl his son had been in love with. Meanwhile, back in their American lives the family runs into Carl not only at a concert but then he also comes to their house, then sees them again and he just so happens to be a spoken word poet at the place where Zora's poetry teacher loves to go, and for a while Levi is enamored of Carl but then falls in with a group of Haitians and as he gets to know them learns that they also hate Howard's rival and it all has to do with the very same painting that Howard's rival's wife gave to Kiki Belsey but was temporarily misappropriated by Howard's rival. And then it happens to wind up under Kiki's bed. It was too much for me. I liked the ending, though, in that there was no real redemption for Howard, just a kind of fizzling. Parts were well written. Parts.

  • Paul
    2019-03-01 02:06

    I find myself liking Zadie Smith more and more. The blurb about this wasn’t immediately promising; another novel about a middle-aged academic having an affair resulting in a family and personal crisis. However, there is much more going on. Smith herself has acknowledged that it is an Homage to Howard’s End. The author creates a multitude of voices, all interesting in their own right. It is set in a fictional American university town, Wellington (a thinly disguised Harvard). The novel revolves around the Belsey family; Howard, the white male academic described earlier, his African-American wife Kiki and their three children, Zora, Levi and Jerome. Howard is a left wing (ish) liberal and he has an academic rival, Monty Kipps, a Trinidadian who is rather right wing (whilst writing this I am suddenly reminded of Naipaul who is Trinidadian and was a fan of Thatcher; but the resemblance ends there). Monty’s wife Carlene and Kiki become friends and the two families become entwined in a number of ways. The Belsey children are really well drawn. Smith captures the right level of warmth, hope, youthful verve and irritatingness for three teenage children. There is a warmth and humanity to all the characters, even Howard and Monty, both hypocrites. The university and academia types are brilliant and capture the machinations of academic life; thankfully there isn’t too much of them and usually the children take centre stage. Smith satirises everyone on all sides of the cultural divides we all inhabit; but without losing the warmth mentioned above. The politics of race and gender are handled here with great humour and Smith maintains a serious moral compass and shows the importance of connections in human relationships. There are some genuinely funny moments; Howard’s reaction to the glee club and his relating of it to his wife for example. There are also moments of great perception; Howard simply does not seem to understand the reactions to his infidelity. As for the second infidelity; it is breath-taking in its timing and inappropriateness. His family around him understand him all too well and let him know. This is a good comic novel, which has great humanity and is a seriously good read.

  • karen
    2019-02-24 01:57

    i read this too long ago to write a proper review of it, but this is a little heads-up if anyone wants to check out a "summer reruns" list i made over here: do so love making lists.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-03-10 07:09

    Onvan : On Beauty - Nevisande : Zadie Smith - ISBN : 143037749 - ISBN13 : 9780143037743 - Dar 445 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2005

  • Oriana
    2019-03-12 00:13

    I was deeply displeased with this book. I can't believe I actually finished it; I liked neither the characters nor the language nor the style. I only read it because I got it for free (found it on the street in a pile of other middling titles), but though that excuses my starting it, it does not at all excuse my slogging through, stubbornly determined, all the way to the end. The truth is this: I was too lazy to figure out what to read next, which is incredibly idiotic, so I deserved what I got. There were a few moments right there toward the end when she pulled all the semi-disparate plotlines together and I was fairly impressed seeing how it all fit, but all in all? This book sucked and I kind of suck for reading it.

  • Sally
    2019-03-02 01:12

    I think On Beauty is brilliant. I loved the extra layer of meaning that my reading of E.M. Forster's Howards End provided -- but I don't think it's necessary to do background reading to enjoy this novel. The characters are "messy," as Zadie Smith would say -- most of them make a lot of mistakes, but, for the most part, you love them, or sympathize with them for all of their deficiencies. It's a book with many layers, which is just the kind of fiction I love the most!Zadie Smith has experience in many worlds, crosses many boundaries, and has interesting things to say from a variety of perspectives (including as both a fiction writer and as an academic). She's not only an extremely talented novelist, but she is super educated and smart, with interesting opinions on art, writing, and reading that can be appreciated by anyone. For example, her stance on the value of reading fiction in one sentence, which I really like: "When we read with fine attention, we find ourselves caring about people who are various, muddled, uncertain and not quite like us (and this is good)." (Read "Love, Actually," published in the UK Guardian, Nov. 1, 2003, to understand the fullness of what that means.)In On Beauty Smith tells an engaging story centered in a Harvard-like community, with lots of political, social, and academic battles that make you laugh and cringe at the same time. The dialogue is snappy and entertaining. We get the most concentrated view of Howard, a middle-aged, untenured professor (his stalled book-in-progress and unpopular art history lectures argue against Rembrandt's artistic genius), and his practical, down-to-earth, and wise wife and three young adult children. Howard gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble, putting his 30-year marriage on the line for extramarital nonsense, as his career continues to go nowhere. There are lots of controversy-filled themes packed in this novel: race, immigration, class, gender -- along with love, family, friendship, coming-of-age, and aging. Everyone is trying to figure out their place in the world and with each other.One of the many memorable scenes is when Howard makes an unplanned visit to his father during an emergency trip to London. It has been four years since their last failed visit, and they both can't help -- despite their best intentions -- but clash. Howard and his father speak different languages. It pains Howard to confront his father's ignorance just as his father is shocked by Howard's incomprehensible views of art and puzzled by his interracial marriage and family. Smith skillfully captures the chasm between father and son, painful memories, and the impossibility of successful communication and a meaningful relationship.Readers of Howards End won't have any trouble recognizing the parallels - but Smith goes way beyond the framework provided by Forster, to make this a book that addresses contemporary personal and social contradictions in an entirely fresh, creative, and relevant manner. I highly recommend this outstanding novel!

  • B the BookAddict
    2019-02-28 03:58

    Alive is the word which springs to mind about this novel. It is a glorious, page-turning, rip-snorter of a tale through the lives of a white British college professor, Howard Belsey who's married to a black American, their three near-adult children and Howard's nemesis – Monty Kipps.My favorite part is Howard's reaction while listening to the glee club singers at the formal college dinner; uproariously funny and totally priceless! This is a novel where I would love to read a prequel and a sequel if Ms Smith would be so kind as to write them. I just want more and more of this family and of Smith's gorgeous prose. The review which has the novel in a nutshell and by far the best is: MJ Nicholls's review Mar 20, 11 5 of 5 stars bookshelves: novels, sassysassenachs, tortured-artists, distaff Read from March 13 to 16, 2011 “This is a book full of unbeautiful people: obnoxious teenagers, philandering academics, stuffy professors, right-on street rappers, wispy rich kids and more obnoxious teenagers. Zadie takes a scalpel to Anglo-American academic relations, probing away at the race/class issues with her usual mordant unflinching cruelty and compassion. She plants a series of depth charges in the lives of her wibbling characters, watching them each explode in turn into quivering heaps of gloopy suet. As ever, the ride is a scream.” MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I'm with MJ Nicholls; a definite 5★

  • Helle
    2019-03-17 00:01

    Sassy, smart and street-wise is what this novel is; what Zadie Smith is. With a literary nod to a favourite novel of mine, Howards End - which is anything but sassy and street-wise - this is a novel that only Zadie Smith could pull off. As in White Teeth and NW, it is teeming with snappy conversations, larger-than-life characters, literary references and unlikely plot developments (partly grâce à Forster); in short On Beauty is full of life and soul. The prose crackles and sparkles, and once again we witness Zadie Smith’s trademark ear for different dialects and sociolects, rap and literature. And while many of her sentences are eloquent and the topics serious, they are also full of mirth. It is perhaps what I appreciate the most: her wit. Because it is invariably coupled with heart and smarts. Here Howard, middle-aged intellectual Brit transplanted to the United States courtesy of his voluptuous, African-American, non-intellectual (and utterly wonderful) wife, Kiki, is having a conversation with a curator at the college where he teaches (who speaks the first line):’Ag’inst Rembrandt’, the second man said. He had a high-pitched Southern voice that struck Howard as a comic assault for which he had been completely unprepared. ‘That was the title your assistant mailed us – I’m just tryna figger what you meant by ‘ag’inst’ – obviously my organization are part-sponsors of this whole event, so –‘‘Your organization –‘‘The RAS – Rembrandt Appreciate – and I’m sure I’m not an innellekchewl, at least, as a fella like you might think of one…’‘Yes, I’m sure you’re not,’ murmured Howard. He found that his accent caused a delayed reaction in certain Americans. It was sometimes the next day before they realized how rude he had been to them.Forster dealt in social classes: the cultured intellectual Schlegells, the moneyed business people - the Wilcoxes, the working class man - Leonard Bast, who were all trying to bridge the gap between their classes; between literature and life – to ‘only connect’. In On Beauty Zadie Smith takes us to a college town in New England, and so her groups are Americans, Brits, whites, African-Americans, intellectuals and non-intellectuals, students and rappers, teenagers and their parents – all trying to find their place in the world, to connect or, as in Howard’s case, work through a mid-life crisis. And as in White Teeth, she has created characters that jump off the page and really exist. But On Beauty shines much brighter than WT and NW, in my opinion. The novel was further from Howards End than I had expected but turned out to be a fantastic book in its own right, allusion to favourite novel or not. When I read her acknowledgements at the end, I nearly broke down (in gratitude? wonder? renewed and double appreciation of Forster and Zadie Smith?) This is what she writes: It should be obvious from the first line that this is a novel inspired by a love of E. M. Forster, to whom all my fiction is indebted, one way or the other. This time I wanted to repay the debt with hommage.

  • Josh
    2019-03-24 04:54

    Why have I been put off by trying Zadie Smith in the past? Could it be the name of her books? With the names 'On Beauty', 'The Autograph Man', 'White Teeth' or even 'NW', could that have really been the reason why I hadn't read, much less really picked up anything by her? How superficial is that? I have a 'don't judge a book by it's cover' mentality merely because when one judges by the way it looks is ridiculous because I've found some completely ugly covers that have been great books and the opposite, but 'On Beauty'? With its simple cutesy curly cue type on front, the name that yells aesthetics (aesthetically speaking), it was one that was first picked up and not even flipped through, one that was put back onto the bookshelf without a second glance for quite some time. I picked this up out of curiosity, I picked it up because I wanted to go outside the box. This is one that I failed to even look at the excerpt or blurb to what it was about. I climbed onto it and rode on. This story is about the beauty of life and how beauty is completely relative in nature. This bi-racial, bi-cultural symbiosis between man and woman and their story of the world around them is well thought out, ingenious and realistic. Not only is it a story, plain and simple, set out forthwith without abstract meaning, it holds the key to what great story telling is all about: getting to the core of an issue and not hiding it behind a curtain. THIS IS IT, HERE I AM, TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. The insecurities with our loved ones, our tendency to be doormats, raw emotion and lessons learned are all on display and this is what makes this a 5-star and not a 4-star. Anyone can write a book with a story such as this, but understanding what you're writing and knowing HOW to portray what you're writing in a way that it truly makes someone snicker like 'yeah, I know how that is'...that's what does it for me.

  • Mary
    2019-02-27 01:59

    This is why Kiki had dreaded having girls: she knew she wouldn't be able to protect them from self-disgust. To that end she had tried banning television in the early years, and never had a lipstick or a woman's magazine crossed the threshold of the Belsey home to Kiki's knowledge, but these and other precautionary measures had made no difference. It was in the air, or so it seemed to Kiki, this hatred of women and their bodies - it seeped in with every draught in the house; people brought it home on their shoes, they breathed it in off their newspapers. There was no way to control it. (p.198)There was nowhere to park. They had to leave the car several blocks from the party itself. Zora had specifically worn the shoes she was wearing because she had not anticipated any walking. To make progress she had to grip her brother around his waist, take little pigeon-steps and lean far back on her heels. For a long time Jerome restrained himself from commentary, but at the fourth pit stop he could keep silent no longer. "I don't get you. Aren't you meant to be a feminist? Why would you cripple yourself like this?""I like these shoes, OK? They actually make me feel powerful." (p.408)

  • Alicia Vogl Saenz
    2019-02-25 05:19

    I heard so many rave reviews of Zadie Smith. But all were recommendations for her book White Teeth. I wanted to throw this disappointing book against the wall. The characters were stock and predictable. The liberal art history professor. The self-righteous college student. The woman poet. The “uncle tom” Black academic. The strong Black woman. And so on and so on. None of their actions were surprising. So many characters, so many missed opportunities to illustrate race relations. Needless to say, I didn't care about any of them, even ones that I would ordinarily sympathize with. I did force myself to finish it, mostly because I wanted to see if anything would happen that I couldn’t predict. In the end, Smith ties up the loose ends of the plot as if she were on deadline and her publisher is banging on the door, asking her for the advance back. Anyway, perhaps my expectations were just too high. I am still interested in reading White Teeth-I am an optimist.

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-13 02:57

    While I did not absolutely hate this book, I really disliked it from the beginning and kept reading in hopes it would redeem itself. Alas, it did not. In fact, there really isn't many redeeming qualities in the story or the characters whatsoever. The book was written with some style, but as far as the storyline and the characters go, the book should have been called On Destruction...which is, as it seems to me to be, where every character was bent on going in their own oblivion. I did not have any sympathy for or empathy with any of them and that I think is a huge fault in the development. Furthermore, the colloquialisms in some of the dialogues were off; the scenes as well as the characters fell a little flat.

  • Emma
    2019-03-13 04:16

    I would probably give this book three and a half stars, which is not an option here. I thought it was well-written and had many interesting, memorable scenes, but the book did not really feel like a cohesive whole. The story follows an interracial family in an academic setting. The father is a white art history professor at a private liberal arts college in a fictional suburb of Boston; his wife is a black southern woman and they have three kids. The title "On Beauty" comes from a poem, which is quoted at one point during the book. The book did comment on different types and perceptions of beauty as well as different kinds of intelligence and intellectual styles. These themes are conveyed through the novel's many characters. For example, there is the wife, Kiki Belsey, a large black woman with beautiful skin who radiates with a goddess-like presence, who notes that people expect this like her as a black woman of her size. She is not in the academic world, but is perhaps the most emotionally intelligent character. Her husband Howard is an average-looking white middle-aged man, who struggles with finishing and publishing his academic scholarship and whose style tends to dispute common understandings about the art world. (His main thesis is that Rembrant wasn't really anything special, he was just painting to fulfill the requests of the clients who commissioned him.) Another professor, Claire Malcom, is a petite, thin white woman who wears no make-up and might seem not to care about her appearance, though it is revealed that she has been ordering salads almost her entire life, practices yoga in order to stay young and flexible, and pays careful attention to her bikini line. Claire is a poet and is somewhat looked down upon within her department for not being a "real" academic. Howard and Kiki's daughter Zora tries too hard in both respects. She spends considerable time getting ready in the morning and pledges at the beginning of the semester to swim everyday and lose weight. She also works inredibly hard in her classes (she is a sophomore at the fictional college, Wellington), but does not seem to have any real opinions of her own. What she lacks in natural beauty or talent, she makes up for with hard work and persistence. Similar analysis can be made for almost every character, some we barely meet at all. For instance, in the course of three pages we are introduced to a college freshman who was the academic star in her high school who is terrified to open her mouth in Howard's class for fear of saying something stupid. As quickly as she is introduced, she is gone, never to be mentioned again. This breadth of characters provides these various human idiosyncrasies, but in some ways damages the story as a whole, never letting us get to know one character or storyline in depth.

  • Dannii Elle
    2019-03-21 23:57

    Zadie Smith's deep and beautiful insight into the lives of undeep and unbeautiful people is astoundingly brilliant (yes, I am aware that I just made those words up. Let's just call it poetic license).The book's angle is a pretty simple one: the reader follows the movements of the various members of the Belsey family, and those they come into contact with, over the course of a year or so, and begins to form an insight into how they interact with the world and the people around them. In reality, it is so much more than this.The Belsey family - comprising of an African American mother, a Caucasian father and three mixed-race children - all struggle with an identity crisis that centres around a multitude of things including their race, gender and their place in the academic world of Wellington (a thinly veiled Harvard) that they reside in.The complex issues that this novel confronts forced me to confront myself as more than a self-contained entity. We areallso much more than individual beings. Who are we is denoted by our heritage, our ancestry, our upbringing, our peers... We are an amalgamation of everything that came before us and everything we come into contact with, but it is how we process and respond to these factors that defines who we are as a person. And we are all a walking political statement for something, whether we like it or not. As the characters begin their individual journeys of self-discovery, I departed on one of my own. This book helped me to think about my own place in my own society: every thing I touch and everything that has touched me, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has all made up the person who sits here and writes this today.If anyone is still reading this self-absorbed waffling then I urge you to pick up and read this book. It touched me soul, and I hope it does yours.

  • Madeline
    2019-03-03 00:05

    I try to summarize this book for people, and I find that I really can't do it. The story, when you try to outline it, seems much too short to be stretched out across 443 pages. Here is my best attempt at summary:The story takes place mostly at a fictional East Coast college in the US, although some of the story happens in London. There are two feuding families of academia, but the only pair that even slightly resembles Romeo and Juliet are the two mothers. The book is about race, poetry, art, Haiti, sex, marriage, college, poverty, wealth, politics, Rembrandt, Mozart's Lacrimosa, rap music, death, and a million other tiny things I've probably forgotten. It is funny and sad and beautiful and ugly and loud and quiet and vulgar and touching, and is full of lines like this: " is never really very cold in England. It is drizzly, and the wind will blow; hail happens, and there is a breed of Tuesday in January in which time creeps and no light comes and the air is full of water and nobody really loves anybody, but still a decent jumper and a waxen jacket lined with wool is sufficient for every weather England's got to give."

  • Nelson Zagalo
    2019-03-16 00:01

    O que me cativa em Zadie Smith (1975) é o mesmo que me cativa em Philip Roth, o virtuosismo na forma escrita, na argumentação ficcional e nos diálogos estruturantes. Se Roth é judeu, Smith é multirracial, mãe negra jamaicana, pai branco inglês, nascida em Londres, o que lhe permite trabalhar o mundo e os seus personagens a partir de uma perspectiva refrescantemente multicultural. O seu primeiro livro, “Dentes Brancos” (2000), criou imensas expectativas quanto ao seu futuro, que se vieram a confirmar neste seu terceiro livro, ganhador do Orange Prize for Fiction e finalista do Man Booker Prize.[Sugiro ler com imagens no blog -]Recorte da obra "A Woman bathing in a Stream" (1654) de Rembrandt, uma das chaves do livro.“Uma Questão de Beleza” (2005) junta dois reconhecidos modelos da literatura, o “campus novel” e a “crónica de costumes” para nos dar aquilo que podemos definir como sátira académica. Situada temporalmente no pós 11/9, num vai-vem entre Londres e Boston, Zadie Smith abre uma janela para dissecar relações de poder, envolvidas em ideologia política (conservadores vs. liberais), por meio de duas famílias do mundo académico, dos seus pais e filhos, das suas raças, valores morais, sociais e intelectuais. O romance é um verdadeiro frenesim, são tantos os temas, pontos de vista e antagonismos que enfrentamos, que por vezes nos custa a acreditar como conseguimos todos viver neste pequeno planeta. Mas é exatamente desse frenesim que podemos dizer que emana o estilo Zadie Smith, como se o livro fosse uma tela e os personagens pinceladas de tinta, óleo espesso em jogos de misturas, criando um todo que se vai formando ao longo das 500 páginas.O livro deambula entre duas linhas de enredo principais: a relação conflituosa entre dois académicos, Monty, o conservador negro, e Howard, o liberal branco; e a relação de casal entre Howard e Kiki, a sua mulher, negra, na casa dos 110kg, não-académica (enfermeira). Estas duas grandes linhas cruzam-se constantemente, e se de um ponto de vista de mais valia cultural podemos dizer que o conflito entre os dois académicos é a essência, na verdade, a chave do livro está na relação do casal, e podemos mesmo dizer, em Kiki, a não-académica. Uma relação de 30 anos, com 3 filhos adolescentes/adultos, aparentemente perfeita, está à beira da ruptura, e de cada vez que Zadie Smith nos deixa a sós com Kiki, é como se o mundo se encerrasse ante tanta clarividência.O grande conflito entre Monti e Howard surge a partir de um artigo em que Monti, enquanto conservador, pretende convencer os colegas a retirar o termo liberal das artes liberais. Este termo conjunto foi usado na época medieval para definir os estudos universitários, ou estudos do pensamento abstracto — engloba: lógica, gramática, retórica, aritmética, música, geometria e astronomia — opondo-se às artes mecânicas, que trabalham o mundo do físico e concreto. A discussão não é detalhada, e ainda bem, se não afastaria todos os não interessados no tema do livro, mas é relevante, e obriga-nos a refletir.Excerto: “Li o artigo dele de domingo no Herald sobre o tirar o “liberal” das Artes Liberais… sabe, então agora é como se andassem a tentar dizer-nos que os conservadores são uma espécie em vias de extinção — como se precisassem de protecção no campus ou coisa assim.” Aqui Zora deu-se ao trabalho de revirar os olhos e sacudir a cabeça e suspirar ao mesmo tempo. “Aparentemente, toda a gente tem tratamento especial — negros, gays, liberais, mulheres — toda a gente excepto os pobres machos brancos.” p. 178Excerto: "[Rembrandt] um artesão meramente competente que pintava o que quer que os seu ricos patronos solicitassem”. Howard pediu aos seus estudantes que imaginassem o belo como a máscara que o poder veste. Que reclassificassem a Estética como uma linguagem rarefeita de exclusão. Prometeu-lhes uma cadeira que iria desafiar as crenças deles na humanidade redentora daquilo que é tratado habitualmente por “Arte”. “Arte é o mito ocidental”, anunciou Howard, pelo sexto ano consecutivo, “com o qual nos consolamos como nos fazemos.”” p.185Até que ponto é que aceitamos verdadeiramente estas duas visões do mundo, a conservadora e liberal? Nomeadamente, nós académicos, que vemos o mundo a partir de uma matriz científica, que implica a constante renovação e refutação do passado. Mesmo no campo das humanidades, como podemos aceitar o Belo? O liberal Howard, é um caso clássico, é um académico especialista em Rembrandt mas não gosta de Rembrandt, aliás está mesmo à beira de publicar um livro “Contra Rembrandt”. Porquê? Porque para si o belo não existe. Os alunos definem Howard, como o “não gosta de tomates”, porque é o professor que não gosta de nada, que tudo desconstrói, tudo discute, tudo compartimentaliza intelectualmente, mas nada verdadeiramente o afeta emocionalmente. O belo é um artifício conservador, é antiprogressista, já que opera pela incrementação, ou seja pela simples melhoria técnica do que já existe, enquanto o liberal, o progressista, procura constantemente o diferente, a ruptura. Mas a verdade é que o próprio Monti, defensor máximo dos valores conservadores, pouco ou nada se envolve também com o Belo, porque no fundo, apesar de estarem em campos políticos opostos, acabam seguindo a base motivacional da academia, movida pelas ambições, focados em dar conta da sua própria distinção intelectual, da sua capacidade para estar na frente do pensamento. Deste confronto emerge umas das mais fortes críticas de Zadie Smith à academia, já que ambos, Monti e Howard, vendo diferentes mundos, impondo diferentes ideologias às suas famílias, esqueceram que o mundo não é uma equação. Neste sentido, e apesar de se poder tentar colar o selo de pós-moderno à obra de Zadie Smith, ele fica-se pelos aspetos da multiculturalidade, já que segue todo um registo clássico, tanto na forma — com a escrita a gritar pelo lado virtuoso — como por toda a base de discussão estética. Zadie Smith está aqui claramente à procura de algo que o simples progressismo não lhe oferece, daí que lhe custe tanto aceitar a quebra dos laços familiares, vendo o amor entre o casal como um núcleo quase indestrutível. O seu personagem, Kiki, assume a vida como um dar-se ao outro, uma escolha consciente, um sacrifício de si em função da família, que define para si o amor, o estar vivo. Howard, classicamente, segue todo o livro sem conseguir ver o belo na mulher, imbuído do espírito académico que tudo disseca e com nada se envolve, acabando por ganhar consciência de tudo isso num momento de reviravolta final, contida, mas intensa psicologicamente, em que Zadie Smith funde brilhantemente um quadro de Rembrandt e uma troca de olhares entre Kiki e Howard.No final da leitura, andei a ver os quadros e desenhos de Rembrandt mencionados ao longo do texto de Zadie Smith, e por isso aproveito para os deixar aqui, para quem quiser usar como guia durante a leitura, deixo-os por ordem aproximada de citação no livro.Rembrandt, "The Shipbuilder and his Wife", 1633Rembrandt, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp", 1632Rembrandt, "Jacob wrestling with the angel", 1659Rembrandt, "Naked Woman Seated on a Mound", 1631Rembrandt, "The Sampling Officials", 1662Rembrandt, “A Woman bathing in a Stream”, 1654Deixo para o final os dois quadros que Carlene procura deixar em testamento a Kiki, um de Hopper e outro Hyppolite. Sobre o quadro de Hector Hyppolite, “Maîtresse Erzulie” (~1940) é particularmente interessante o modo como Zadie Smith trabalha o seu processo de reconhecimento, já que foi André Breton que numa passagem pelo Haiti, em 1945, descobriu as obras, adquiriu na altura um conjunto, provavelmente imensamente baratas, e lhes deu a fama que fariam destas, mais tarde, peças valiosas.Hector Hyppolite, “Maîtresse Erzulie”, ~1940E por fim o quadro de Edward Hopper, Edward Hopper, "Road in Maine", 1914Publicado, com imagens, no blog -

  • Gabrielle
    2019-02-24 01:09

    "On Beauty" is a bit tough to summarize. Zadie Smith got very ambitious with this book and threw a lot of stuff in there: academia, race, gender, class, privilege, cultural identity, religion, sex, coming-of-age; and then hung everything on an elegant E.M. Forster frame. Smith's prose is beautiful, and reads smoothly: I breezed through the book in a couple of days. She has that light British humor that never fails to make me smile and a good dose of compassion as well. The Belseys and the Kippses are all completely flawed but you can't hate them, you can only feel for them. Messy characters who struggle with their humanity are tricky to write, and Smith does a wonderful job of fleshing them out realistically.The rivalry between the two families of academics and their petty resentment and hypocritical behavior is nothing new: the amount of books written about middle-aged university professors having affairs probably can't be counted anymore. It becomes eventually obvious that "On Beauty" is quite aware that a middle-ages professor sleeping with a nubile student is a complete cliché. But that is not really the point of Smith's story; it's just a set-up to get the readers to look more closely at the way people react to their environment.The very obvious homage to "Howards End" (a book I personally love to bits) works extremely well. "Howards End" is all about class criticism, the opposition of the intellectuals vs. the empty-headed but wealthy upper-crust. The capacity for empathy is crucial to "Howards End", and it obviously is the corner stone of "On Beauty" as well. It brings similar concerns into a completely contemporary light, illustrates how hard a time people have looking past the boundaries they set between themselves and other people. Many things have changed since the 1900's, but the challenges of forming real human connections obviously remains a complex problem.Smith is an incredibly intelligent and talented writer and I will be reading her other books! 4 and a half stars.

  • Jason
    2019-03-06 00:57

    This was my first Zadie Smith, but she has quite the reputation and she is widely read, so I don't think I need to talk about her writing (excellent), the plot (interesting and original retelling), or the characters (multi-layed, real). I was most interested in what the novel is saying about the academy, about art, and about taste. I look forward to filming a proper video review.

  • Eliza
    2019-03-14 00:10

    I know very little about art, but this novel sparked a momentary interest in paintings for me; I looked up every one referenced in the text. If you're reading it, I really recommend you do the same, as it adds a lot of texture to the narrative (as hideously poncey as that sounds - and yes, that is exactly how my university tutor put it. She was right. She pronounces 'texture' 'textyaaah'.) If you only take a look at two paintings associated with this novel, the ones to check out would be:1. The Maitresse Erzulie“She represents love, beauty, purity, the ideal female and the moon...and she's the mystère of jealousy, vengeance and discord, AND, on the other hand, of love, perpetual help, goodwill, health, beauty and fortune.”The moment in the novel when this painting is discussed by Carlene and Kiki has so many layers, it's hard to really identify them all. Really, the picture just reinforces the idea throughout that the most incredibly beauty is often hidden in plain sight. This valuable painting on Carlene's wall that very few know about, and Kiki's rare beauty that passes unnoticed due to her status as an overwrought mother and supporter of her high maintenance husband. However where Carlene fades into her partner, Kiki flourishes; she is truly the Maitresse Erzulie, with her glorious colours, her free-flying birds and her confident posture.2. Hendrickje Bathing“This is what a woman is: unadorned, after children and work and age, and experience-these are the marks of living.”Howard, the verbose university lecturer, has perhaps the most important journey in this novel, and it is this painting that hits him between the eyes. His career is to dissect and deconstruct paintings, leaving their meaning bear for students and intellectuals; but after the events of the novel, when all is said and done, this painting leaves him silent. This moment is one of the most moving I've come across in any novel; it's about beauty, something that can't be deconstructed, something that isn't it's parts in isolation, cold on an examination table. It's something else, and appropriately, that something leaves him speechless. For, frankly, the first time in the entire novel.This definitely made me want to read more Zadie Smith novels, she has a very modern voice, but there is a very distinct traditional note in her writing. As far as I am aware, she is very much influenced by E. M. Forster, and this lightness comes through in her writing. Don't be fooled, however; she tackles some Goliath issues, appearing to dance over them like a slightly mocking ballerina, without dipping too far into satire.

  • Lisa
    2019-03-13 03:03

    I hated this book at the beginning. Good God, I thought, do I really need to read this annoying drivel for another 400 pages? And I prematurely assigned it 2 faded stars in my head.But it drew me in. Zadie Smith picks out bits of human interactions, what goes on in our minds, out of our mouths, that give me pause. Her approach to race is multi-faceted (how boring, how tired a word, I can hear Zora saying) and should make you feel uncomfortable. I still think the novel is flawed in many ways. The number of times characters would bump into each other in a large city is downright ridiculous. In my entire life, I have bumped into one of my brothers downtown exactly twice, over the course of years of haunting the same neighbourhoods, and the rest of my family never. And if liberal arts colleges really are this intellectually uppity, then boy am I glad that I never knew that world. Still, I have to hand it to Zadie for keeping me entertained to the end, and not being afraid to blow apart the myth of a monolithic African-American experience. Cringe-worthy is a compliment here.

  • Teresa Proença
    2019-03-09 02:22

    Gostei da Kiki. E do Howard quando pensa na Kiki. Gostei de como Zadie vê os quadros de Rembrandt. Até metade do livro, portei-me bem e penei lendo tudo. A partir daí, passei os olhos pelas páginas e só lia quando havia Kiki e Howard e Rembrandt.No todo, não gostei...

  • Eibi82
    2019-02-25 04:21

    3'5.A pesar de los momentos de cabreo que me ha hecho pasar esta lectura, el libro me ha gustado mucho. El estilo de Zadie Smith es muy particular: ácido, irónico, sin tapujos y escrito con muchísima inteligencia.Es un libro incómodo, por lo que quiere decir, por cómo lo transmite y por la forma de hacerlo. Pocas veces me ha pasado estar tan al límite con un libro, y sin embargo mantenerme totalmente enganchada a la lectura para saber qué pasa. Esta es una novela de personajes, y como ya he mencionado en mis avances, ¡son insoportables y odiosos, todos! (Howard el que más), algo que ha ralentizado mi lectura. De la quema salvaría a Kiki que en ocasiones me parecía más una observadora de todo ese circo de snobs, arrogantes, ególatras y pomposos personajes que la rodean. Y es que, esta lectura, no deja de ser una crítica brutal a todo; explora no solo el mundo académico, sino también las relaciones familiares, la religión, el choque cultural entre generaciones y raza y una serie de conflictos, que se desarrollan en ese pequeño microcosmos de Sobre la belleza, y del que el lector no puede evitar formar parte como uno más. Para ser mi primera toma de contacto con Zadie Smith, no ha ido mal, pero creo que es importante leerlo en un momento adecuado, (y sin estrés), para poder sacarle todo el jugo y disfrutar de la lectura plenamente. ¿La recomiendo? Por supuesto, sólo por las perlas que va dejando en los capítulos merece la pena. Estoy deseando ponerme con Dientes Blancos y Swing Time. Pd: Esta es la primera lectura que hago de las autoras adoptadas que voy siguiendo, espero hacer pronto una reseña un poco más extensa en el blog y hablaros también de la adopción tan fantástica que ha hecho Emma de Zadie Smith en el proyecto de Adopta una Autora.

  • Wanda
    2019-02-28 04:21

    I requested this book from our public library because I have obtained a ticket to her Zadie Smith speak at our University in February 2016. I think it will be a lively evening!Zadie Smith is a shrewd observer of the human condition. And she takes a good hard poke at the idea that knowledge and art can be somehow value-neutral, that we can ignore the purpose of the person who created a piece of art (I think that’s post-modernism?).One of her main characters, Howard Belsey, is a college professor who teaches art history. But Howard is completely unnerved by expressions of firm belief and strong emotion. His lectures are virtually incomprehensible in their refusal to discuss the beauty of the works, the purpose of the artist, or response of the viewer. The students of the college describe the various college courses in terms of tomatoes—a history course becomes Tomatoes 1867-1967, for example. Howard’s student, Victoria, nails his reluctance to grant value to love, beauty, or truth when she describes his art history class to him:But your class—your class is a cult classic. Your class is all about never ever saying I like the tomato…Because tomatoes are not there to be liked…Your tomatoes have nothing to do with love or truth. They’re not fallacies. They’re just these pretty pointless tomatoes that people for totally selfish reasons of their own, have attached cultural—I should say nutritional--weight to.The irony is that an art history professor is completely unable to recognize or appreciate the beauty in art or in his own life. He is disconnected from his family and out of touch with other college faculty. He has had an affair with a woman about whom he cares nothing (and she, if possible, cares even less about him) out of sheer thoughtlessness. Because he has espoused this value-free existence (absolutely no religion, no Christmas, etc.) he is seemingly unable to resist doing the wrong thing, frequently. (Mind you, the religious characters fare no better in Smith’s tale). Howard’s part of the story is just that—only a part. Smith also gives us a window into his wife, Kiki’s, world as well as their children, Jerome, Zora and Levi. All of them have to find what they will and will not live with, what they will do with their lives. Kiki must decide whither her marriage will go, Zora whether she will follow in her father’s academic footsteps, Levi whether he identifies with the middle class or with Haitian immigrants. Of all of the family, Jerome seems to be the clearest of purpose, although things certainly don’t begin that way.Smith writes gorgeously. Her insights into our interpersonal communication difficulties are right on the money. Because the Belsey family are mixed-race and middle-class, she is able to explore race and class issues effectively as well. An excellent novel and I am very much looking forward to hearing Ms. Smith speak in February.

  • CJ
    2019-03-10 06:19

    i loved, loved white teeth. i did not like on beauty. i'm afraid zadie smith wasn't able to capture american-speak very well. kiki has southern roots and, at times, she supposedly "went florida" in her speech and mannerism, but this was something smith simply stated rather than demonstrated. i could excuse levi's not entirey successful attempts at urban dialogue given his suburban/academic family background, but not carl's. maybe i'm extra critical b/c, in a past life, i spent some time in the spoken word scene, but carl was a shell of an idea rather than an authentic, believable character. whatisname's assistant, the other southerner, really showed some of smith's weakness in writing regional/cultural dialects. one "accented" word in a character's sentence - e.g. "pahpoint" - w/o keen attention to how other more common words should be spoken does not make for very convincing dialogue. i was so distracted by the characters' inauthentic language that i didn't have the patience/interest to hone in on the themes about beauty...which seemed a bit shallow anyhow. ok, the fat character is sympathetic and fun and smart and good-looking despite her rolls...the thin beautiful character is too often taken merely at face value and people don't make much of an effort to get to know her beyond that...but the reader can't get to know her beyond that b/c smith also isn't interested in her other than for her looks.the good stuff: the father felt genuine and gave an honest look at academic/intellectual pursuits when stagnant. his thoughts about his family and marriage also felt real and were interesting to me, especially b/c...well b/c i'm not a man and he seemed to offer a real "man's" (albeit an older man's) point of view. i thought his musings on his relationship w/ kiki were more thoroughly drawn out than kiki's, interesting since smith is herself a woman. kudos to her for being able to represent the husband so well. (though i wonder if a male reader would disagree about smith's success with that.)

  • Nathan
    2019-03-03 08:01

    Character is plot, anyway, says the man behind Darconville's Cat. On Beauty does just fine with its characters. But, "A character for me is any linguistic location of a book toward which a great part of the rest of the text stands as a modifier" says the man behind The Tunnel. I'll grant her the characters, but the language through which those characters are constituted verges upon cliché. Too harsh I know ; the novel reads too easily, slickly. And I know ZS does better. There is nothing here ; to orchestra a novel's polyphony one needs to do more than place a bit of argot in the mouths of a few characters. This one here, despite its promising title, is a mere ordinary lit=fic novel.