Then Jerome, Howard's older son, falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing icon Monty Kipps, and the two families find themselves thrown together in a beautiful corner of America, enacting a cultural and personal war against the background of real wars that they barely register. An infidelity, a death, and a legacy set in motion a chain of events that sees all parties forced to examine the unarticulated assumptions which underpin their lives. How do you choose the work on which to spend your life? Why do you love the people you love? Do you really believe what you claim to? And what is the beautiful thing, and how far will you go to get it?
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.
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Some of the characters are not quite realized, but the professor and his wife, Kiki, are both very richly drawn. Kiki is especially beautiful and fascinating, and she’s a good foil for her rather fatuous husband, her rigidly ambitious daughter, and her two sons. Both sons are looking for some source of hope, one through religion and one through street politics. Kiki, meanwhile, is all about living fully in an environment that keeps buttoning everyone up.
I was sad to see this book end.more
The characters in this novel are fascinatingly complex, and the themes of race and class in--wait, is that something shiny over there? Maybe it's a robot! Back later! Bye!more
I don't often feel this way about books but I felt at an inherent disadvantage reading this as a white girl. The main ideas explored have so much to do with race and racial conflicts in particular. Set primarily in Boston, it concerns a marriage between a white professor and a black woman and their kids who struggle to fit into their world. For example, the younger of the two brothers who wants to talk "street" but is ashamed that he lives in an upper middle class area of Boston. The idea is to not be privileged and when he runs into some Haitians, he's even more convinced that he shouldn't be living in his current rich neighborhood. There are questions of beauty too, as the subject suggests both in terms of the wife and mother of the family and a work of Rembrandt's (I've always hated that artist, I have to admit, which made it much more difficult for me to enjoy the book in some sections.)
Besides delving into the politics of Haiti, the book also speaks about affirmative action with two angry professors. The one who opposes the other speaking out on affirmative action doesn't want to tread on democracy but he's torn to say the least. Both arguments-for and against affirmative action are stated and perhaps the most powerful is the one in which suggests that issues of class became more important to politicians like Condi than their race.
You also have alot of immorality from both sides-the Christian right wing and the completely liberal. Affairs abound and it seems poorly written at this point...too stereotypical and uncreative. Predictable. Really, the only person who is without artifice and could be described as beautiful is the professor's wife and the mother of the story who is a feminist to her core even if she's not an intellectual. Despite her weight, she's a rather proud woman who cherishes her children and is forgiving as possible about many things.
Without giving away too much, the book also doesn't really leave you with a definitive ending. Though it's clever the way she it finishes, I felt overall a little disappointed even though it vaguely reminds me of The Crying of Lot 49 in terms of that anticipation. But then again, as I said before I really couldn't care less about Rembrandt. Overall, I was more impressed wth The Autograph Man...still have to finish White Teeth.more