Author: Zadie Smith
Publisher: Penguin Books.
About: Howard Belsey is an Englishman abroad, an academic teaching in Wellington, a college town in New England. Married young, thirty years later he is struggling to revive his love for his African American wife Kiki. Meanwhile, his three teenage children— Jerome, Zora and Levi—are each seeking the passions, ideals and commitments that will guide them through their own lives.
After Howard has a disastrous affair with a colleague, his sensitive older son, Jerome, escapes to England for the holidays. In London he defies everything the Belseys represent when he goes to work for Trinidadian right-wing academic and pundit, Monty Kipps. Taken in by the Kipps family for the summer, Jerome falls for Monty’s beautiful, capricious daughter, Victoria.” But this short-lived romance has long-lasting consequences, drawing these very different families into each other’s lives. As Kiki develops a friendship with Mrs. Kipps, and Howard and Monty do battle on different sides of the culture war, hot-headed Zora brings a handsome young man from the Boston streets into their midst whom she is determined to draw into the fold of the black middle class – but at what price? (via Goodreads.)
Review: I just want to say the word Flawless over and over again. Flawless. Flawless. Flawless.
Now, I’m not the biggest adult-novel reader shall we say, I do tend to prefer YA, but I adored this novel! It’s 445 pages long but I easily could have read a few more hundred pages about the Belseys.
I do find it hard to explain what this book was about, I don’t think the summary (above) was very relevant, because despite the big deal made of the feud between Howard and Monty Kipps it’s not at the forefront of the novel. It is still important and it rears it’s head every now and again but mostly this book is about the family Belsey and their struggle to remain a family when every one of them is so vastly different. And it is wonderful.
The odd thing for me is that I liked this book despite not really liking any of the main characters! They are all so deeply flawed and some just downright unlikeable but I loved them anyway and it just made the novel better.
The plot, is rather basic I guess, feuding families, philandering academic, teenagers trying to discover who they are independent of their families, and some of the plot points were rather predictable, like Howard’s second mid-life crisis, and Levi and the painting, but that is a testament to Zadie Smith. That she could take the mundane and make it seem extraordinary all the way through.
I wanted more pages to this book. Simply put, I didn’t want it to end and Zadie Smith’s remaining novels have all been added to my TBR pile.
(Also, I want to be called Zadie.)
What did everyone else think of On Beauty?