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On Beauty by [Smith, Zadie]
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On Beauty Kindle Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 145 customer reviews

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Length: 473 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Amazon Review

In an author's note at the end of On Beauty, Zadie Smith writes: "My largest structural debt should be obvious to any E.M. Forster fan; suffice it to say he gave me a classy old frame, which I covered with new material as best I could." If it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Forster, perched on a cloud somewhere, should be all puffed up with pride. His disciple has taken Howards End, that marvelous tale of class difference, and upped the ante by adding race, politics, and gender. The end result is a story for the 21st century, told with a perfect ear for everything: gangsta street talk; academic posturing, both British and American; down-home black Floridian straight talk; and sassy, profane kids, both black and white.

Howard Belsey is a middle-class white liberal Englishman teaching abroad at Wellington, a thinly disguised version of one of the Ivies. He is a Rembrandt scholar who can't finish his book and a recent adulterer whose marriage is now on the slippery slope to disaster. His wife, Kiki, a black Floridian, is a warm, generous, competent wife, mother, and medical worker. Their children are Jerome, disgusted by his father's behavior, Zora, Wellington sophomore firebrand feminist and Levi, eager to be taken for a "homey," complete with baggy pants, hoodies and the ever-present iPod. This family has no secrets--at least not for long. They talk about everything, appropriate to the occasion or not. And, there is plenty to talk about.

The other half of the story is that of the Kipps family: Monty, stiff, wealthy ultra-conservative vocal Christian and Rembrandt scholar, whose book has been published. His wife Carlene is always slightly out of focus, and that's the way she wants it. She wafts over all proceedings, never really connecting with anyone. That seems to be endemic in the Kipps household. Son Michael is a bit of a Monty clone and daughter Victoria is not at all what Daddy thinks she is. Indeed, Forster's advice, "Only connect," is lost on this group.

The two academics have long been rivals, detesting each other's politics and disagreeing about Rembrandt. They are thrown into further conflict when Jerome leaves Wellington to get away from the discovery of his father's affair, lands on the Kipps' doorstep, falls for Victoria and mistakes what he has going with her for love. Howard makes it worse by trying to fix it. Then, Kipps is granted a visiting professorship at Wellington and the whole family arrives in Massachusetts.

From this raw material, Smith has fashioned a superb book, her best to date. She has interwoven class, race, and gender and taken everyone prisoner. Her even-handed renditions of liberal and/or conservative mouthings are insightful, often hilarious, and damning to all. She has a great time exposing everyone's clay feet. This author is a young woman cynical beyond her years, and we are all richer for it. --Valerie Ryan

Review

."..[A] thoroughly original tale about families and generational change, about race and multiculturalism in millennial America, about love and identity and the ways they are affected by the passage of time. Ms. Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice--at once authoritative and nonchalant, and capacious enough to accommodate high moral seriousness, laid-back humor and virtually everything in between--and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Oh happy day when a writer as gifted as Zadie Smith fulfills her early promise with a novel as accomplished, substantive and penetrating as On Beauty. It's a thing of beauty indeed. In tackling grown-up issues of marriage, adultery, race, class, liberalism and aesthetics, she thrillingly balances engaging ideas with equally engaging characters. As good as she is with big ideas, Smith is even stronger at capturing family dynamics, the heartbreak of broken trust as well as the lovely connections between siblings. --The Los Angeles Times Book Review



"In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty's only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone." --Kirkus Reviews



"Smith's specialty is her ability to render the new world, in its vibrant multiculturalism, with a kind of dancing, daring joy. . . . Her plots and people sing with life. . . . One of the best of the year, a splendid treat. " --Chicago Tribune



"On Beauty is a rollicking satire . . . a tremendously good read." --San Francisco Chronicle







..".[A] thoroughly original tale about families and generational change, about race and multiculturalism in millennial America, about love and identity and the ways they are affected by the passage of time. Ms. Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice at once authoritative and nonchalant, and capacious enough to accommodate high moral seriousness, laid-back humor and virtually everything in between and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Oh happy day when a writer as gifted as Zadie Smith fulfills her early promise with a novel as accomplished, substantive and penetrating as On Beauty. It's a thing of beauty indeed. In tackling grown-up issues of marriage, adultery, race, class, liberalism and aesthetics, she thrillingly balances engaging ideas with equally engaging characters. As good as she is with big ideas, Smith is even stronger at capturing family dynamics, the heartbreak of broken trust as well as the lovely connections between siblings. The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty's only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone." Kirkus Reviews

"Smith's specialty is her ability to render the new world, in its vibrant multiculturalism, with a kind of dancing, daring joy. . . . Her plots and people sing with life. . . . One of the best of the year, a splendid treat. " Chicago Tribune

"On Beauty is a rollicking satire . . . a tremendously good read." San Francisco Chronicle

"

Named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by theNew York Times Book Review, Entertainment Weekly, Time, andPublishers Weekly, ANew York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Denver Post, andPublishers Weeklybestseller, ALos Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Atlantic Monthly, Newsday, Christian Science Monitor, andMinneapolis Star TribuneBest Book of the Year, and Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize
..".[A] thoroughly original tale about families and generational change, about race and multiculturalism in millennial America, about love and identity and the ways they are affected by the passage of time. Ms. Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice at once authoritative and nonchalant, and capacious enough to accommodate high moral seriousness, laid-back humor and virtually everything in between and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Oh happy day when a writer as gifted as Zadie Smith fulfills her early promise with a novel as accomplished, substantive and penetrating as On Beauty. It's a thing of beauty indeed. In tackling grown-up issues of marriage, adultery, race, class, liberalism and aesthetics, she thrillingly balances engaging ideas with equally engaging characters. As good as she is with big ideas, Smith is even stronger at capturing family dynamics, the heartbreak of broken trust as well as the lovely connections between siblings. The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty's only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone." Kirkus Reviews

"Smith's specialty is her ability to render the new world, in its vibrant multiculturalism, with a kind of dancing, daring joy. . . . Her plots and people sing with life. . . . One of the best of the year, a splendid treat. " Chicago Tribune

"On Beauty is a rollicking satire . . . a tremendously good read." San Francisco Chronicle

"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1232 KB
  • Print Length: 473 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 July 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9WLQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars 145 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,895 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Best book of my year so far. So many themes. Fat as a feminist issue, politics, academia, beauty, race and family dynamics. All written in an unmistakable lively style. J enjoyed every page. We read this in book group and a lively discussion followed. Great book.
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Good read
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interesting to see that it seems to split the lovers and haters equally going by the reviews here.I read HOWARDS END last year and absolutely loved it, 5stars. never read owt by ZM so thought id give this a go. cant understand people saying its predictable cos i found it the opposite. I loved it and loved the game of matching her characters to Fosters. The themes of black consciousness/stereotypical thinking/loves first massive crush/the beast in man for young pretty things/ there r many subjects she weaves into the story so well. Ive read 3 orange winners now and this is the best. The Booker winner for 2005 must have been something pretty special.
you wonder if the author reads these reviews. If so, it must be terribly painful as some of the comments r so brutal and vicious.You spend 2/3 years of blood sweat and tears into it, plus your soul and get these negative comments. She offers up her innocence and gets repaid with scorn.
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Amazon and literary critics have complained that On Beauty did not live up to Smith's first novel, White Teeth. I am glad, therefore, that I have not yet read White Teeth and do not feel compelled to make a comparison. On Beauty was an absolutely fanastic read. It covered well worn topics i.e. inter-racial relationships, black identity etc, but it didn't over-explore them. Instead Smith used her knowledge and understanding of these subjects to show that people who have to deal with them also have to deal with the everyday emotional issues of life such as loss of love, growing up, temptation etc.

It seems that Zadie Smith has a deep understanding of art and is able to share this with her readers. Whilst I appreciate art I would not describe myself as an art lover. However, I have found myself looking up Rembrandt on the internet and in the local library. One has to see the picture of Hendrickje bathing to understand it's significance to the end of the novel.

Smith's uses language skillfully and by doing so put's the reader into the mind and psyche of each character.

My only contention with Smith is her characterisation of Kiki. It seemed to me that she was made to fit negative stereo-types of black women. Characterising her as a overweight black women seemed to cast her in a kind of Big Mama type role - always there to deal with everyone's nonsense and so lacking in self-esteem she was unable to free herself from her adulterous, needy husband.

Howver, no-one's perfect but I think On Beauty is the nearest to a perfect novel I've read in a long time.On Beauty
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Format: Paperback
a fun and quirky look at zadie smiths new book and i enjoyed the book very much
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I could not put down this novel. Apart from more classic reminiscences (Forster, for instance), it made me think of the celebrated "campus novels" by David Lodge. Similar in the settings, its irony and the iconoclastic view of the innings of apparently brilliant and morally sound professors.
I loved how Zadie depicted the characters: you can know how they are even from the way they speak (Howard's mediocrity is blatant here).
The only but is that there are some underdeveloped subplots. I think that this novel deserved a bit more time spent on it and some additional pages (I know that it is already a long novel, but the richness of the characters make them alive and you end wondering what happened to so-and-so....)
Africa Rubies-Mirabet (Catalonia)
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I found this book absolutely compulsive- its full of great dialogue, witty descriptions and is, at times, laugh out loud funny. The funniest part I remember is when Howard is at an academic dinner, and nearly wets himself because a barber-shop quartet are singing U2's In The Name of Love- in a samba style, complete with an impromptu moonwalk. That, alone, nearly had me in tears.

Some may complain that there is no plot. This is true, but because there is such a complex tangle of relationships throughout the book, this simply isn't an issue- in fact, it zips along beautifully. This novel isnt meant to be a fast-paced thriller- it's a study of human relationships. But it is perhaps here that the critics are on to something. For if I were to criticise On Beauty, its that the characters, while being interesting and recognisable, are rather stereotypical. Anyone who's been to university will recognise the clever but overly-eager Zora, or the hippy poetry teacher Claire. But Smith doesn't do enough to develop them. In fact, the characters fit rather too neatly into the reader's expectations. The characters Howard and Monty Kipps, exemplify this- the former a pretentious left-wing intellectual who's not much good at coping with reality, the latter a hypocritical right-wing ideologue. So far, so predictable. But Smith never really problematises this- the Kipps family in particular just weren't developed much beyond their hard-line Christian values. (Although the one exception to this is Kiki's touchingly brief friendship with Monty's wife, Carlene). This rather superficial charcaterisation is both On Beauty's strength, and its weakness.
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