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Book review: <i>On Beauty</i> by Zadie Smith

There’s nothing quite so enjoyable as a book that challenges the way we think, in my opinion—as long as that book does it in a particular way. Most readers don’t want to be preached at, or aggressively challenged, or be treated like they’re stupid while reading a novel (there are academic and religious texts for that, thanks). And often, when an author is trying to comment on race, or socio-economic status, or politics, they more often than not come across sounding like self-righteous snobs. However, Zadie Smith manages to tackle all of these topics in On Beauty, and manages to be simply thought provoking, maintaining the integrity of the reader by not assuming the reader is an idiot. It sounds simple, but it’s actually a rare and beautiful thing.

The content

Howard lectures at a university, is married to a black lady and has three mixed race children. His mortal enemy, a black Christian lecturer from another university, has destroyed his academic reputation in the newspapers and is coming to dismantle political correctness and ruffle post-structuralist feathers at Howard’s university. Howard had an affair, but his wife doesn’t know the full extent of his betrayal. His wife befriends the wife of Howard’s nemesis. And to top it all off, Howard’s oldest son falls in love with the daughter of his enemy. This story deals with race in a context of middle-class intellectualism and growing up black in the ’burbs and privileged. It deals with betrayals, the bitter world of university politics, and above all, the human struggle in a day to day context. It is nicely written and empathetic without leading the reader too much.

Who is this book for?

If you have ever attended, or more particularly worked at, a university, this book will have you saying “yes, that is SO TRUE!” when the dynamics are played out. Read this book if you have ever been in an academic situation, or are interested in discovering a perspective on race that has to be played out in novel form to work effectively. If you want a book to relax with but not put you to sleep or cause you to feel brain-dead, this is the book for you.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Hmm... I’m not sure about this one. I’ll keep you posted.

In short

Title: On Beauty
Author: Zadie Smith
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 0143037749
Year published: 2005
Pages: 444
Score out of ten: 8
Review Type: 


a friend lent me the book and i just started it yesterday. i just couldnt put it down, the cahracters are so endearing and im loving every page of it. there are some books that leave you thinking every now and then and affects you in a certain way, appealing to your emotions.this book is one of them and i give it a 12!!!!