Tag Archives: Zadie Smith

On Beauty

On BeautyThis book was a bit of a gamble. I had read another of Smith’s books, “N-W” earlier in the year, and was not impressed at all. But having read so much about her, I thought maybe I am missing something. Anyway, when I came across “On Beauty” in a book shop during the summer I thought “Why not – everyone deserves a second chance.”

The story centres around two very different families and their working and emotional ties and is set mainly in New England, with occasional trips to the London suburbs. It is all about relationships; those we have with our families, our work colleagues and lovers. All of the characters in the book are forced at some point to question their feelings about those they love and come to terms with their own failings.

The two feuding families – the liberal Belseys and the conservative Kippses – must look beyond their differences and find ways to get along as their lives become closely entwined. 

On Beauty is actually quite a funny book in placers, despite the strong moral message about love and family ties. Some of the twist and turns are reminiscent of a soap opera, but are delivered with much more finesse. 

Personally I am very glad I took the chance on this book which I found to be a captivating read. I really enjoyed the way the characters were portrayed and felt an instant affinity with all the characters. 

N-W

N-Wby Zadie Smith

I have heard of Zadie Smith and seen her referred to in several articles recently as part of the discussions about the content of the English Literature courses and exams. So, in an effort to understand the educational debates, I decided it was time to give it a go.

Did I enjoy the book? Not sure actually.

Certainly I can see what people will think she is worthy of reading and there is plenty of scope for debate and analysis. 

“N-W” is set in North West London (hence the title) and tells the stories of four old school friends. Through the book we get a glimps into the lives of people growing up on inner London estates and the challenges they face.

The reviews for the book said it was “brilliant” and “intensely funny”. Personally I found it interesting, challenging and at time difficult to follow. 

Zadie Smith tells each of the four tales in different styles, something which can work (see my previous review of “It’s a kind of Magic”), but in this case I just found confusing. The staccato phrasing, the way dialogue and narration often ran into each other with no punctuation I found irritating. 

Whilst I can see the literary merit, and how the story may be seen as “relevant” I don’t think I will be rushing out to buy another.