On Beauty

by Zadie Smith | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0241142938 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Amanida of Chertsey, Surrey United Kingdom on 4/14/2006
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Amanida from Chertsey, Surrey United Kingdom on Friday, April 14, 2006
5th and penultimate of the 2005 Booker prize nominees that I have read and, on balance, my least favourite so far.
Howard Belsey is an Englishman teaching Art History at a college in New England and he is having a sort of mid-life crisis. His wife is Kiki, an African American and they have 3 children - Jerome, a committed Christian, who longs for a more normal family life - Zora, an ambitious and slightly misguided student at the college - and Levi, who hangs out on the street. Life gets complicated when Monty Kipps, a right wing academic and Howard's arch rival comes to the college as a visiting lecturer.
There are some excellent bits in it: the part in London is the best, in my opinion - Howard's visit to his father is particularly good. But the majority is set in US and didn't appeal to me so much.
Curiously, the book also contains the sentence "And yet.", as do at least 2 of the other nominees. Is this some kind of password that was required to get on the shortlist?

Journal Entry 2 by Amanida from Chertsey, Surrey United Kingdom on Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Being taken to the Chertsey Meet Up tonight.

Journal Entry 3 by BCWoman from -- wild released somewhere in Kent, Kent United Kingdom on Thursday, May 11, 2006
Picked this up at the Chertsey Meet last night as one of the leftover books.... Will make sure it gets passed on to another BCer :o)

Journal Entry 4 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Saturday, May 13, 2006
Thanks Caffcaff, good to see you today at the Ipswich meet-up :)

I loved White Teeth, found The Autograph Man disappointing; is this going to be Zadie Smith back to her best??

Journal Entry 5 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Thursday, October 05, 2006
(5/10) It was very brave of Zadie Smith to openly pay homage to a classic novel (Howards End)...so one is duty bound to look for parallels and compare writing styles & quality. IMHO I think she comes out very favourably, despite the different eras and subject matter…and I can’t believe that she’s still only 31!

There are a lot of obvious parallels between the books; (1) the core is built around the cultural differences between 2 families, although in OB it is more of an open enmity between Monty Kipps and Howard Belsey as warring conservative & liberal academics, rather than Forsters more subtle Edwardian new money/industry vs. old money/art & culture; (2) the ill-fated relationship between scions of the 2 families; (3) the death of the matriarch; (4) the closeness between a parent of one family and a child of another (I won’t give the details away); and lastly (5) the adoption of someone from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ to add a 3rd aspect to the cultural mix. There are probably lots more links which I’ve missed, my memory not being great! I was looking for a direct parallel with the house Howards End, but i’m indebted to LyzzyBee for spotting the pun on ‘Howard’s End’...although I’d like to think that his academic self-destruction and moral decline are not terminal, as I preferred the fallability and human-ness of him, his wife and children to the rather smug Kippses.

The only criticism, and it could be just my sensitivity, but I found the ‘blackness’ of a lot of the characters and the social gulf between the Wellingtonians (Harward?) and the Boston ‘street’ a bit overplayed and unnecessary. I like to think of the novel more about differences in the class & privilege and social & mental outlook rather than colour? I think Smith is better writing about ‘people’ with colour as a side issue, rather than the other way around.

RELEASE NOTES:

Not by post - passed on to MrsDanvers to read after the copy of Howards End that I pressed on her before ;)

RELEASE NOTES:

Not by post - passed on to MrsDanvers to read after the copy of Howards End that I pressed on her before ;)

RELEASE NOTES:

Not by poast - passed on to MrsDanvers to read after the copy of Howards End that I pressed on her before ;)

Journal Entry 9 by MrsDanvers from Aldeburgh, Suffolk United Kingdom on Monday, October 16, 2006
Passed on by bgm on Saturday. To be read in tandem with Howard's End.

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