32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
Tangled, muddled and utterly disappointing., 3 Feb. 2007
Zadie Smith's third novel is a catastrophe. As usual her characterisation is sensitive and engaging, her dialogue is sharp and her ideas are flowing, but the plot is a disaster. The book was patchy, nonsensical and lacks structure or meaning. The pretentious echoes of Howards End were truly depressing and did not seem to make any sense in the context of the story; in fact I find it insulting that Smith dared to integrate the ideas of such a masterpiece into her own work. They didn't even make any sense in the context of the story. I am confused as to what On Beauty is meant to be about; is it meant to be some kind of profound exploration of modern aesthetics? A radical portrayal of class- and race- related confrontation? Or just a warm-hearted feel-good novel about a priviledged American family? What Smith has done is half-heartedly combine these three into a patchy, rambly book which lacks direction and any kind of resolution. It would need far more editing and far fewer characters it it were to make any sense at all.
E M Forster will be turning in his grave.