On Beauty – Zadie Smith



This is the first Zadie Smith book that I have read, as although I saw and loved the TV adaptation of ‘White Teeth’, I have never read it, so when I saw this book in the charity shop for 50p, I had to buy it.

However, I found it quite disappointing, as while the prose was fantastic, I felt that the plot fell flat. Perhaps this was because I am not the target demographic for the book, as a lot of the plot takes place in and around a US college campus, as well as focusing on family dynamics, which isn’t where I am currently. I also sensed that there was nuance in family and college incidents, situations and interactions that I was missing, and this probably contributed to my lack of enjoyment.

It follows the lives of a family through standard and unusual life changing moments, based primarily on the East Coast of the US, with some scenes set in England. The father is a professor, which is why a lot of the plot takes place in and around a college campus and college politics. This is also interwoven with another family, who hold opposing politics, and therefore are rivals.

The characters were well drawn and believable, but they all felt slightly too disconnected for me. It felt as though they all acted independently and the only reason they happened to know each other is because they were in a novel together.

The plot was interesting, but it didn’t drive me forward and make me want to complete the book. It felt quite slow, lackadaisical, and dull. If you have enjoyed Zadie Smith novels in the past, I suspect you would enjoy this, but definitely not for me.