Of course the thick-as-a-brick novel has a lot of sub-themes. The 2nd generation come in and out. Politics among departments of Humanities in a Bostonian academy is another unavoidable backdrop. But to me it's all about the dysfunctional relationship between the mid-age couple. The irony is that there is still love in this marriage. Is Zadie trying to reveal that long term matrimony is out of place? No matter how two people care for each other, they can't pull their marriage through the sacred laws such as exclusiveness and frankness? She seems to provide a solution to the woman who walks out of her vow at the end of the book: staying with another woman. It surely is based on real life examples. Like the jcrew creative director: smart woman, social status established, who finds a new form of love after her long-time opposite-sex marriage ended. But this scenario is no more than being indicated in the novel. in the final chapter, our Casanova-like yet academically ill-fated protagonist, Howard, is granted his last chance of tenure evaluation. The Rembrandt specialist is giving a public lecture. from the begining, He already loses control of emotion by playing the slides without giving out a word except for reading out the artwork titles. The last slide is an epic capture of an intimate moment of the artist's lover, called hendrickje bathing. At the moment, Howard sees his divorced wife, his life-time lover Kiki in the audience. He starts to be able to interpret her every single reaction in the glow of love. The many layers of emotion he sees in her melt into a soft descriptional paragraph about the many tonalites and strokes observed off
the portrait. Hendrickje's half-hidden left hand leaves the untold moments of intimation to the viewers to imagine.
The title On Beauty is also the title of a sample work by the liberal-minded poety professor in the novel. Given that the majority of the characters are humanities intellects who study ON human's creative heritages, the book title is an ironic question thrown at every humanities thinker as what they study is essentially a study on Beauty (an invented value found by human) and whether/how it affects human life in any historical time.
An ambitious try, indeed, but not quite successful: after reading the masterpiece that is "White Teeth", I had great expectations for "On Beauty", and very few of them were actually met.
Characterisation is good here and there, but overall too sketchy: not all the important characters are given enough space to make their mark on the reader's imagination, which is a pity, as it is clear that they do have something to add to the story (I'll take Jerome as an example: the story begins with him, and almost because of him, but where does he disappear, then, going forward?).
The plot itself has the potential to become another great and greatly funny domestic saga, but ends up losing itself in the recesses of long-winded lecture-like passages and loose ends: the ending is no ending, to the point that, upon reading it, I couldn't help but ask myself "so what?".
Not as pleasant a read as I hoped for, but I'd still praise Zadie Smith for her ability to portray a gamut of human sensations and faults that we all have met, at some point, or even felt ourselves.
It's a weird novel. I closed the book with disappointment, because there seems to be a plot which is diluted, sometimes lost, definitely not solved as one would expect.
But a book is not just about its ending, maybe.
If one would take it as just an observation of a family's life, and all its dynamics, its characters, is amazing. Zadie Smith has a wonderful capacity to really make people become almost "real". Their behaviour, the conversations. That is brilliant.
But maybe a book is not just about how it is written, maybe.
I am not sure I understood it. It's a difficult and easy reading at the same time. Slow and intense, but also sometimes clever and funny. would I recommend it? I don't know. For sure I would recommend to read at least a part of it. A random one, and enjoy the writing. The whole book, I don't know....Continua
A strange book.
I can't say I love it, and I almost stopped reading one third through, but then I kept going because it was unlike any other book I've read. There were some interesting parts, but it was a bit dispersive, and it didn't really have a storyline somehow.
Actually, after the great "White Teeth" I expected something more by Zadie Smith's "On beauty". Dialogues, Black British references and background are always well displayed throughout the narrative, but the story fails catching the attention and enthusiasm of the readers. I'll surely give her other chances 'cause she writes in a very enjoyable way, but for this time she hasn't met my expectations. Sorry Zadie!...Continua