On Beauty • Review

  • Author : Zadie Smith
  • Publisher : Hamish Hamilton 2005
  • Genre : Domestic Fiction
  • Paperback : 446 pages
  • Awards : Women’s Prize for Fiction, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction
  • Nominations: Booker Prize

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful and decide what you want and need and must do.”

― Zadie Smith





Set in New England mainly and London partly, On Beauty concerns a pair of feuding families – the Belseys and the Kippses – and a clutch of doomed affairs. It puts low morals among high ideals and asks some searching questions about what life does to love. for the Belseys and the Kippses, the confusions – both personal and political – of our uncertain age are about to be brought close to home: right to the heart of family.


Before I begin, just take a moment to admire the beautiful cover of this book. I generally don’t buy books by it’s covers, but the moment I saw it in one of the Lock the Box events (@lockthebox) I took it in.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith, is an intricately detailed tale of two families, the Belseys and the Kippses; their inner working as well as the facade they create for the outer world and also the truce they have between them. Reading this book you will feel like you are literally sitting down in their living rooms and watching the drama unfold before you.

The story mainly focuses on the Belseys: Howard and Kiki married for thirty years with three children Jerome, Zora and Levi. Just a typical family story consisting a failing old marriage with some complicated yet passionate teenagers. But the story doesn’t end here. There comes in lots of other small stories of the lives revolving around them. Am very glad that I got to read from intellectual professors to struggling street rappers.

The two characters that I absolutely hated are :
One, Howard Belsey, a liberal and a Rembrandt scholar who funnily actually hates Rembrandt and also believes that he is always right and second, Monty Kipps, a conservative right-wing icon who also believes that he is always right. And so obviously they hate each other. Their fights go from personal to political and eventually their families get dragged in. I actually wanted to atleast like Howard at some point but failed miserably! Because though they exhibit totally opposite beliefs, they drop down to same low moralities.

But I loved Kiki, an absolutely beautiful strong black woman who believes she was once a sexy activist but trust me she is still one. She even had befriended Mrs. Kipps inspite of that stupid family rivalry. She had all the beautiful dialogues which I totally loved. Unfortunately, except that I didn’t love anything else!

It’s an award winning book, beautifully written no doubt but it’s too slow. It began with funny dialogues, I really got invested in but then it started dragging descriptions pages after pages. And towards the end they put in a death, a theft and a legacy, all together. Finally when it got interesting it ended. Disappointment! Moreover, I think this genre itself was not for me. It was my first Zadie Smith, though I loved those art and poetry stuff, I failed to like this book wholly.

My Rating :

Rating: 2 out of 5.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.