Wednesday, 7 August 2013

80 Books No.62: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

In an attempt to raise my intellectual profile in this challenge, and to also expand upon my knowledge of recommended A Level reads, I dived back into the world of Zadie Smith. I tried her debut White Teeth last year. Interestingly, I read it last August, so almost exactly a year ago, and it took me eight days. My thoughts were:

"I enjoyed this for the most part although I found it a bit of a slog towards the end."
These thoughts would very much tally with my thoughts about On Beauty, except I found it a slog in fits and starts. It was a pretty straightforward idea, about 2 families who have opposing ideas on life and whose patriarchs especially disliked each other. From here they get entangled with each other. It was, for the most part, a decent book, and given it's won a range of awards, I probably shouldn't deign to believe I know better than literary experts.
I think my main issue was that there were no characters I especially liked. Jerome was good but a bit of a drip and so a pretty boring character. His younger brother Levi was entertaining and a better character, but too irritating to be likeable. Howard was pathetic. Probably this is part of the whole postmodern style which Smith is lauded for - nobody is a pin-downable type and all perceptions are fluid and transient. And it's odd, because I am totally loving the TV show Revenge and almost everybody in that is evil and devious and actually rather unpleasant. I think in On Beauty though, the plot wasn't quite entertaining enough to override that. Plus it was billed as being amusing and I didn't find it especially so.
Still, it was certainly better than my next read...

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