Publisher: Penguin Press
Length: 464 Pages
About: Rival academics and families meet up
Style: Letters/email and 3rd person
Where: US, New England and London, England
When: early 2000s
Smith's third novel is an analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, and an honest look at people's deceptions. An infidelity, a death, and a legacy set in motion a chain of events that
forces everyone to examine the assumptions which underpin their lives.
Now, listen to this next bit carefully: in the morning THE WHOLE KIPPS FAMILY have breakfast together and a conversation TOGETHER and then get into a car TOGETHER (are you taking notes?) – I know,
I know – not easy to get your head around. I never met a family who wanted to spend so much time with each other.
I hope you can see from everything I've written that your feud or whatever it is is really a waste of time. It's all on your side anyway – Monty doesn't do feuds. You've never even really met
properly – just a lot of public debates and stupid letters. It's such a waste of energy. Most of the cruelty in the world is just misplaced energy. I've got to go – work calls!
While reading On Beauty it's easy to forget, and sometimes hard to believe, that Zadie Smith is scarcely out of her twenties. Her new novel is masterly on almost any level....E.M. Forster would be
Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
Not so good:
There are flaws, of course (and not just the portentous title). The beginning feels awkward: remnants of an older style full of grabby italics and wisecracking dialogue sit uncomfortably alongside
the richer, more complex tone that takes over. Fussily choreographed bits of physical action (such as Howard showing off hip-hop moves to the gleeful horror of his kids) give some of the early family
scenes a sitcom feeling - not so much visualised as televisualised......More seriously, some of the characters appear blurry or under-drawn - especially Kiki Belsey, who seems intended to embody a
kind of feelingful alternative to Howard's hyper-intellectuality but never quite comes out from behind the enormous bosom with which her creator has a little too symbolically endowed her.
James Lasdun, The Guardian 10th September 2005
About the author
• Birth—October 27, 1975
• Where—Hampstead, England, UK
• Education—B.A., Cambridge University
• Awards—Commonwealth Writers' First Book Award, the
James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Whitbread Award,
all 2000 (for White Teeth)
• Currently—lives in New York City, New York and London, England
Zadie Smith was born as Sadie Smith in the northwest London borough of Brent—a largely working-class area—to a Jamaican mother, Yvonne Bailey, and a British father, Harvey Smith. Her mother had grown
up in Jamaica and emigrated to Britain in 1969. Zadie has a half-sister, a half-brother, and two younger brothers, one of whom is the rapper and stand-up comedian Doc Brown and the other is rapper
Luc Skyz. As a child she was fond of tap dancing; as a teenager she considered a career as an actress in musical theatre; and as a university student she earned money as a jazz singer and wanted to
become a journalist.
Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. When she was 14, she changed her name to "Zadie". Despite earlier ambitions, literature emerged as her principal interest and would provide a model for
her future career.