On Beauty by Zadie Smith

  • Started on: 2012-04-08
  • Finished on: 2012-04-12
  • Read in: English
  • Rating: “***–”
  • Genre(s): General Fiction


After reading all kinds of fantasy and science fiction in these past weeks, I decided to pick up a ‘regular’ fiction book for once. I read “On Beauty” by Zadie Smith, a book on the 2006 “1001 books you must read before you die” list.
This is the story of the Belsey family, with white, English dad Howard, black, American mom Kiki, and their three children Jeremy, Zora and Levi. It is about Howard’s infidelity and inability to write a book and get tenure at the university where he teaches. About Kiki’s reaction to Howard’s infidelity and her children growing up. About Jeremy trying to find his own place away from his family. About Zora who is trying hard to put her upbringing into practice at the university where her dad teaches. And about Levi, who is trying to live true to his black identity, trying to be more ‘street’ than his privileged upbringing.
The book is a view into their life for a year or two. It isn’t a book with a main storyline, as all characters have their own problems and their own story. This is both the strength and the weakness of the book for me. While I was intrigued by the story, and wanted to know how the lives of the Belseys went on, I did miss the main theme that drags me along. While I enjoyed the book, I can’t say exactly why, and if I had to write a recommendation, I couldn’t. That is why I give this book three out of five stars.