Saturday, December 31, 2016

On Beauty

Does love trump and overwhelm all the impediments lovers manufacture? Does love endure despite the character flaws that sabotage efforts to connect?  I think these are the questions that On Beauty by Zadie Smith addresses, and addresses affirmatively.

This is really a terrific book. The author's ability to describe behavior is indescribable.   It is almost worth reading the whole book for pages 205-207 when Kiki and Howard discuss his infidelity.  The part about the glee club had me giggling like a maniac making a scene in the public place I was in. Also, how Smith could so accurately describe university life given that she is not an academic, really a tip of the hat.  These are just a few examples.  I think I can string words together better than the average bear, but when I read someone like Zadie Smith,  I realize that there are amateurs and then there are professionals.

The book is about a couple living in a university community on the outskirts of Boston. Sometimes I thought it was Wellesley and other times Harvard, not that it matters much. The couple has three kids. The father is a professor who is a bitter rival of a visiting professor.  Howard, the main character, is a white liberal married to Kiki a black woman.  Dr. Kipps, the rival, is a black conservative whose daughter and wife feature prominently in the novel as do Howard and Kiki's three children.

This is the best book I have read in 2016 and the year on the east coast will end in a few hours.  If you are a reader, I highly recommend the novel. It is not a page turner like a who dunnit, but I was sufficiently engaged to inhale about half of the book in a short period of time.  Could be that my interest relates to the fact that much of the novel is about university life. I was surprised to see the many amazon readers whose reviews I read subsequently who did not like the book.  Not me.

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