On Beauty by Zadie Smith

I try to summarize this book for people, and I find that I really can’t do it. The story, when you try to outline it, seems much too short to be stretched out across 443 pages. Here is my best attempt at summary:

The story takes place mostly at a fictional East Coast college in the US, although some of the story happens in London. There are two feuding families of academia, but the only pair that even slightly resembles Romeo and Juliet are the two mothers. The book is about race, poetry, art, Haiti, sex, marriage, college, poverty, wealth, politics, Rembrandt, Mozart’s Lacrimosa, rap music, death, and a million other tiny things I’ve probably forgotten. It is funny and sad and beautiful and ugly and loud and quiet and vulgar and touching, and is full of lines like this: “…it is never really very cold in England. It is drizzly, and the wind will blow; hail happens, and there is a breed of Tuesday in January in which time creeps and no light comes and the air is full of water and nobody really loves anybody, but still a decent jumper and a waxen jacket lined with wool is sufficient for every weather England’s got to give.”

Verdict: four out of five stars

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