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On beauty : a novel
Zadie Smith
Adult Fiction SMITH

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From Publishers' Weekly:

This is a superb novel, a many-cultured Middlemarch, but it's a rough one for an actor. James juggles a large cast of Brits and Yanks, middle- and working-class white, African-American, West Indian and African men and women, as well as street teens, wannabe street teens and don't-wannabe street teens. James has a beautiful, deep voice that at first seems antithetical to Smith's ship of fools, but he enhances the humor and pathos with vocal understatement. He helps give characters their rightful place in the saga. The parade of characters swirl around two antagonistic Rembrandt scholars in a Massachusetts college town. Howard Belsey is a self-absorbed, working-class British white man married to African-American Kiki and father to three cafe-au-lait children. Monty Kipps is a West Indian stuffed-shirt married to the generous Carlene, with a gorgeous daughter, Veronica. The book is funny and infuriating, crammed with multiple shades of love and lust, midlife and teenlife crises. Class, race and political conflicts are generally an integral part of a story that occasionally strays from its center. The theme of beauty as counterpoint to individual, family, cultural and social foibles and failures ribbons through the novel and wraps it up, perhaps to say that Beauty is, finally, the only Truth. Simultaneous release with the Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 1) (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Smith was highly praised for her debut novel, White Teeth, and it probably set high expectations for this third novel, but she may have tried to be too faithful to the book's inspiration, E.M. Forster's Howard's End. As much as Smith updates the class war with modern references to big-box stores, iPods, politics, and such, the academically based battle between the Kipps and the Belseys is more frozen in Forster's drawing room sensibilities than its contemporary urban settings. The characters are too strained and generally unsympathetic to engage one in their troubles or dreams. Yet Smith's descriptions of some of the personas, particularly the opposing matriarchs and their younger children, suggest a looser story that could have been a lot more fun. The work doesn't live up to the hype, although Peter Francis James's reading is appropriately earnest. Disappointing.-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Howard Belsey
Studied Rembrandt though he doesn't like Rembrandt; married for thirty years to Kiki; has no clear plans for his future.

Kiki Belsey
African American
Howard's wife; former activist;.

Jerome Belsey
Howard and Kiki's oldest son; struggles to believe in God though his family doesn't; falls in love with Victoria.

Daughter of a right-wing icon; in love with Jerome.

Levi Belsey
Searches for authentic blackness.

Zora Belsey
Believes intellectuals can redeem everyone.

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