Book Review: On Beauty

August 26, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Recently I finished reading ‘On Beauty”. I can understand why it made the EW Best 100 books of the past 25 years; the beginning starts off with a series of emails that grabs your attention. We see Jerome Belsey’s emails to his dad, Howard. Jerome is in London living and working with Professor Monty Kipps, we also learn that he has fallen in love with Victoria Kipps.

We get to know the Belsey family. Howard is a professor of art history at Wellington College and his wife, Kiki, is a nurse. They’ve been married almost 30 years and have 3 kids, Jerome, Zora, and Levi. We also learn of the Kipps family. Monty Kipps is an academic rival of Howard Belsey and when he gets a job at the same university Howard teaches in, their rivalry takes a new turn.

I was surprised to have an intense dislike for a majority of the characters in this book but that didn’t take away how interesting they were. Howard cheated on his wife and tried to hide it in all sorts of ridiculous ways. I found Jerome to be, for lack of a better term, a wienie (read about the short lived affair of him and Victoria) and Zora to be brash and self-centered. Who writes 34 emails to their professor?!?!  I also found Monty Kipps to be an obnoxious, pigheaded character and Victoria’s portrayal as a Lolita bothered me. I did love the unsympathetic manner that Zadie Smith wrote these professors and their offspring. Both of these professors committed heinous acts and they both get found out, which I loved. Their prestigious positions didn’t save them from the consequences of their actions.

I loved the vivid descriptions of London and Wellington, and the opposition of the two opposing worlds in Boston, the Wellington University world and the world of the Boston streets, which Levi has chosen to immerse himself in. I found the ending to be a bit unnecessary, if it would have ended 10-15 pages earlier, that would have been better. Other than that minor complaint, I loved the book. The EW list has not led me wrong yet : )


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