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On Beauty

New or Used: 2 copies from $4.94
A multi-generational comic saga split between London and the East Coast of the USA.
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About the Author

Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time, as well as a novella, The Embassy of Cambodia, and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Truly human, fully ourselves, beautiful," muses a character in Smith's third novel, an intrepid attempt to explore the sad stuff of adult life, 21st century-style: adultery, identity crises and emotional suffocation, interracial and intraracial global conflicts and religious zealotry. Like Smith's smash debut, White Teeth (2000), this work gathers narrative steam from the clash between two radically different families, with a plot that explicitly parallels Howards End. A failed romance between the evangelical son of the messy, liberal Belseys-Howard is Anglo-WASP and Kiki African-American-and the gorgeous daughter of the staid, conservative, Anglo-Caribbean Kipps leads to a soulful, transatlantic understanding between the families' matriarchs, Kiki and Carlene, even as their respective husbands, the art professors Howard and Monty, amass mat?riel for the culture wars at a fictional Massachusetts university. Meanwhile, Howard and Kiki must deal with Howard's extramarital affair, as their other son, Levi, moves from religion to politics. Everyone theorizes about art, and everyone searches for connections, sexual and otherwise. A very simple but very funny joke-that Howard, a Rembrandt scholar, hates Rembrandt-allows Smith to discourse majestically on some of the master's finest paintings. The articulate portrait of daughter Zora depicts the struggle to incorporate intellectual values into action. The elaborate Forster homage, as well as a too-neat alignment between characters, concerns and foils, threaten Smith's insightful probing of what makes life complicated (and beautiful), but those insights eventually add up. "There is such a shelter in each other," Carlene tells Kiki; it's a take on Forster's "Only Connect-," but one that finds new substance here. Agent, Georgia Garett at A.P. Watt. (Sept. 13) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Issues of beauty in art and life indeed ruffle the surface of this splendid work from the author of White Teeth. Englishman Howard Belsey teaches art history at a small New England college called Wellington; brisk daughter Zora wants to study with the celebrity poet on faculty, who is more than casually acquainted with Howard; and sensitive son Jerome's idea of healing a family rift is to take everyone to a performance of Mozart's requiem. Even rebellious Levi raps away; and Kiki, Howard's African American wife, once an activist, is now hugely overweight and struggling with her sense of self. But perhaps an even better title would have been "On Love," because it is the ties binding this family-and those coming apart-that really matter. Central to the action is both Howard's unfortunate fling and Jerome's summer adventure in London, when he falls briefly in love with the daughter of arch-conservative Trinidadian Monty Kipps, whom Howard regards as an enemy. When Monty ends up at Wellington that fall, the family map gets remade. With fully realized characters and a kaleidoscope of provocative issues, Smith has created a world you can truly enter. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/05.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-A hilarious comedy of manners in the tradition of Austen, Wharton, and Forster, to whom the author pays homage. She tackles class, race, and gender with acerbic wit and a wise eye for the complexities of modern life, in a 21st-century update of Howard's End. Beauty opens as hapless art historian Howard Belsey, a transplanted Englishman married to an African-American woman, returns to London to prevent his son from marrying the daughter of his academic rival, Monty Kipps. Jerome has fallen in love not just with Victoria, but with the entire family, whose Trinidadian, right-wing roots are a sharp contrast to the freewheeling liberalism of his own family. In the meantime, Belsey's other children, social activist Zora and Levi, who speaks only street slang and fancies himself from the 'hood, are each seeking the commitments and identities that will define their own lives. What results is a vivid portrait of marriage, family, the conflict between the political and the personal, and people's eternal affinity for self-deception. Teens will enjoy this romp through the labyrinth of relationships that help a family mature and find its beautiful moments.-Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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