I adored this novel by Zadie Smith, which was originally a set work for my English literature degree, but I think I’m in a much better space to appreciate it now. I can’t wait to read more Zadie Smith fiction!
Set between London and Boston, we experience the human quest for belonging and meaning through the domestic lens of the Belsey family. Kiki, realising she has let her marriage become her life’s only purpose and dealing with its collapse. Howard, a scholar of Rembrandt whose pursuit of intellectualism has stunted his ability to live, resulting in him making impulsive, self-serving decisions that don’t even make him happy. Jerome, perhaps one of the few Belsey’s to feel a degree of contentment by outsourcing his search for life’s beauty to god, while experiencing consistent blows to his ego. Zora, whose academic achievements and popularity never seem to bring her fulfilment or pride. Levi, grappling with his own black identify by seeking out friends in the Haitian immigrant population. All, desperately trying to find some beauty in their often disappointing world.
Reflective, funny, poignant and beautifully written, On Beauty is a triumphant example of how the everyday can be used to show the innermost human experiences. It is apparently loosely based on Howards End by E.M. Forster. Have you read that? It has been added to my list.
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