CR: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

So, your favourite piece of book blogging trash has returned! Following the elation, emotional rescue service and existential crisis of results day (no, I wasn’t expecting to write midnight essays on education either), I once again have the energy to do more than roll around in a duvet  breathe, read and, thank heavens, blog.

I’ve been using On Beauty as a side dish, if you will, to provide refuge whilst I churned first through Othello, and now a dangerous combination of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. Luckily for me, this ‘plan’ is working, because Smith’s language and style is a refreshingly attractive alternative.

Set in London, UK and Wellington, USA, On Beauty documents family rivalry, American college life, and the erosion of a previously idyllic marriage. There’s also love, poetry, morals, Rembrandt (I’ve spent most of today stewarding, I’m not going to talk about art), and a fusion between ‘street, brotha’ life and that of the intellectual. That’s also an awful description, which honestly doesn’t do the book justice.

Let’s just describe On Beauty as one of those blended ice teas that sound like they should be vomit-inducing, but in reality taste like the tears of laughing angels.

I’ve banged on about Zadie Smith’s writing style previously (honestly, this woman is a genius), but what shook me most about this one was how different it was to NW, and my expectations. Because I’m a maverick who buys books without knowing what they’re about, I actually thought that this would be a collection of essays on, well, beauty. Not that I’m complaining.

I think that what this novel has taught me – and I’m not even finished with it yet – is the  fact that beauty is everywhere. Nature. Poetry. Spoken word. Art. Words. People. The existence of beauty is not obvious (both in this book and reality), but the beauty of beauty is that it needs to be looked for, amongst the mundane, amongst the ugly. Seek, and you shall find.

The two held each other, as much for stability as for delight while a huge gust tore through them, sending dry leaves into the air and tipping over a garbage can. Before they had a chance to speak, a loud cry of ‘Yo!’came from behind them. It was Levi, delivered to their feet by the wind.

from On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Humorous and beautifully written – win-win situation.

Read it.


2 thoughts on “CR: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

  1. I swore I’d never read another Zadie Smith novel after reading ‘White Teeth’ (I found the writing really irritating for some reason). When, a few years later, ‘On Beauty’ was chosen as the month’s bookgroup read, I inwardly groaned. However, I had to eat my words, as I found ‘On Beauty’ to be moving, thoughtful, and so beautifully written. I’m so glad I gave Zadie Smith a second chance!

    Liked by 1 person

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