Feature

On Beauty

Zadie Smith delivers an original satire, revolving around two families divided by race and ideals.

The blueprints for Zadie Smith's third novel call for an update of E.M. Forster's Howard's End, set primarily at a liberal Boston-area college, said John Freeman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The plan 'œdoesn't suggest Big Book,' for sure. But the still-young British phenom has managed to make it so, cramming 'œa great deal of contemporary life,' and even a few big thoughts, into this 'œbig-hearted' satire. Like Forster's 1910 classic, Smith's 'œthoroughly original' homage 'œpivots around two families' that are as deeply divided in sensibility as they are intertwined by passion and chance, said Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times. While one family is conservative and black, and the other liberal and of mixed race, both are headed by Rembrandt scholars, and Smith manages to stir their crossed lives into a 'œwonderfully engaging' tale about 'œgenerational change,' race, multiculturalism, 'œlove, and identity.' The author of White Teeth has 'œan uncanny ear for dialogue,' and she can as easily inhabit the point of view of a wannabe teenage rapper as she can a middle-aged hospital administrator.

As great a talent as she is, though, said Stephen Metcalf in Slate.com, Smith could do even better than she has here. On Beauty still shows her to be an artist who's 'œcontent to write well only in auroral bursts,' and too quick to settle for 'œwoolly headed' resolutions to her own provocative questions.

Price: 25.95

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