Set on both sides of the Atlantic, Zadie Smith's third novel is a brilliant analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and an honest look at people's deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed.
"Smith's first novel, White Teeth0 (2000), won prizes and comparisons to Dickens and E. M. Forster. In her current novel, she even uses a couple of plot devices from Howard's End0 to brilliant effect. The Belsey family is multicultural as well as multinational. Howard is English, teaching art history at liberal Wellington College near Boston. His wife, Kiki, is from Florida, and as practical as her husband is intellectual. Although they love each other dearly, Howard's waning career and wandering eye have caused a strain. Their children follow their own paths: Jerome is a Christian; Zora is a socially concerned intellectual; and Levi is trying to be a black man of the streets. When Jerome falls in love with the daughter of Howard's archrival, Monty Kipps, the two families are thrown together in a personal and cultural battle. Although the romance sours, Howard and Monty's rivalry kicks up a notch, while Kiki and Mrs. Kipps develop an unlikely bond. Intermingled with the analysis of family and marriage are commentaries on affirmative action, liberal versus conservative, and prejudices in many forms. This is a boisterous, funny, poignant, and erudite novel that should firmly establish Smith as a literary force of nature. --Elizabeth Dickie Copyright 2005 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Truly human, fully ourselves, beautiful," muses a character in Smith's third novel, an intrepid attempt to explore the sad stuff of adult life, 21st century-style: adultery, identity crises and emotional suffocation, interracial and intraracial global conflicts and religious zealotry. Like Smith's smash debut, White Teeth (2000), this work gathers narrative steam from the clash between two radically different families, with a plot that explicitly parallels Howards End. A failed romance between the evangelical son of the messy, liberal Belseys-Howard is Anglo-WASP and Kiki African-American-and the gorgeous daughter of the staid, conservative, Anglo-Caribbean Kipps leads to a soulful, transatlantic understanding between the families' matriarchs, Kiki and Carlene, even as their respective husbands, the art professors Howard and Monty, amass mat?riel for the culture wars at a fictional Massachusetts university. Meanwhile, Howard and Kiki must deal with Howard's extramarital affair, as their other son, Levi, moves from religion to politics. Everyone theorizes about art, and everyone searches for connections, sexual and otherwise. A very simple but very funny joke-that Howard, a Rembrandt scholar, hates Rembrandt-allows Smith to discourse majestically on some of the master's finest paintings. The articulate portrait of daughter Zora depicts the struggle to incorporate intellectual values into action. The elaborate Forster homage, as well as a too-neat alignment between characters, concerns and foils, threaten Smith's insightful probing of what makes life complicated (and beautiful), but those insights eventually add up. "There is such a shelter in each other," Carlene tells Kiki; it's a take on Forster's "Only Connect-," but one that finds new substance here. Agent, Georgia Garett at A.P. Watt. (Sept. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved