Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2006 Womens' prize for Fiction Winner

On Beauty by Zadie Smith


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



Publisher’s synopsis:

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 proud.'

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

Early Life
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.




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Age guide: 12+







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Adaptations: None to date


















































2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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