On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Synopsis:

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 Kippses – and a clutch of doomed affairs. It puts low morals among high ideals and asks some searching questions anout what life does to love. For the Belseys and the Kippses, the confusions – both personal and political – of our uncertain age are about to be brought close to home: right to the heart of family.

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3 Comments

  1. hilaryfbbc

     /  January 5, 2010

    The Christmas party was way more fun than the book, but at the time of the meeting I had only read half of the book. By the end of reading it (I wanted to know how the story-line finished!), I did feel somewhat engaged with the characters particularly Kiki, so I am glad I persevered.
    I found the ‘feud’ between the 2 families to be pretty weird – although I don’t understand ‘Art’ so maybe I missed the point here entirely.
    If anything this book said to me that academia is really far removed from REAL life. I felt that the book teetered on the edge of issues about race, women, relationships etc but barely scratched the surface so was irritatingly unsatisfactory as a whole. Perhaps 5 out of 10. Can’t be bothered to think about it any more – good job we’ve lots more reading to do!!

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  2. richardbbc

     /  December 20, 2009

    Sorry to have missed the Christmas party.

    I too didn’t finish this book when I attempted it sometime ago. I started it because it was supposed to be a reworking of ‘Howards End’ but it quickly became clear that it failed to benefit from the example and time would be better spent reading the original again.

    HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.

    Reply
  3. I bought this book some time ago, as it had appeared on our year’s reading list. I was tempted to proceed ahead of time, lured by the attractive cover and the prestigious nature of the novel as an Orange Prize Winner, but resolutely resisted the impulse.

    Unfortunately, for me, this novel failed to live up to the promise.

    As far as I got, which wasn’t perhaps far enough to make a fair judgement, I was irritated by the imprecisely defined nature of the narrator. A conversational style isn’t objectionable per se, but it is when the narrator is also sometimes observing through the eyes of her characters. I felt that this prevented a clear and necessary delineation between narrator and characters, and it made it harder for me to engage with the book.

    However, my main problem with this novel was a failure to relate to the plight of the characters, (the extent of whose plight failed to impress me with its plightfulness.) As a reader this lack of sympathy on my part left me feeling guiltily callous, which was no inducement to continue.

    I can only conclude that I must have missed something. Surely the Orange Prize judges couldn’t be wrong?!

    Reply

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