Excerpt from On Beauty by Zadie Smith, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

On Beauty

by Zadie Smith

On Beauty
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 464 pages
    Aug 2006, 464 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

‘Levi,’ said Kiki, ‘honey, I’m interested – do you know who I am? Pay any attention at all to anything that goes on around here? Remember Jerome? Your brother? Jerome no here? Jerome cross big sea to place called England?’

Levi held a pair of sneakers in his hands. These he shook in the direction of his mother’s sarcasm and, scowling, sat down to begin putting them on.

‘So? And what? I know about Kippses? I don’t know nothing about no Kippses.’

‘Jerome – go to school.’

‘Now I’m Jerome too?’

‘Levi – go to school.’

‘Man, why you gotta be all . . . I just ahks a question, that’s all, and you gotta be all . . .’ Here Levi provided an inconclusive mime that gave no idea of the missing word.

‘Monty Kipps. The man your brother’s been working for in England,’ conceded Kiki wearily. It was interesting to Howard to see how Levi had won this concession, by meeting Kiki’s corrosive irony with its opposite.

‘See?’ said Levi, as if it was only by his efforts that decency and sense could be arrived at. ‘Was that hard?’

‘So is that a letter from Kipps?’ asked Zora, coming back down the stairs and up behind her mother’s shoulder. In this pose, the daughter bent over the mother, they reminded Howard of two of Picasso’s chubby water-carriers. ‘Dad, please, I’ve got to help with the reply this time – we’re going to destroy him. Who’s it for? The Republic?’

‘No. No, it’s nothing to do with that – it’s from Jerome, actually. Getting married,’ said Howard, letting his robe fall open, turning away. He wandered over to the glass doors that looked out on to their garden. ‘To Kipps’s daughter. Apparently it’s funny. Your mother thinks it’s hilarious.’

‘No, honey,’ said Kiki. ‘I think we just established that I don’t think it’s hilarious – I don’t think we know what’s happening – this is a seven-line e-mail. We don’t know what that even means, and I’m not gonna get all hepped up about – ’

‘Is this serious?’ interrupted Zora. She yanked the paper from her mother’s hands, bringing it very close to her myopic eyes. ‘This is a fucking joke, right?’

Howard rested his forehead on the thick glass pane and felt the condensation soak his eyebrows. Outside, the democratic East Coast snow was still falling, making the garden chairs the same as the garden tables and plants and mail-boxes and fence-posts. He breathed a mushroom cloud and then wiped it off with his sleeve. ‘Zora, you need to get to class, OK? And you really need to not use that language in my house – Hup! Hap! Nap! No!’ said Kiki, each time masking a word Zora was attempting to begin. ‘OK? Take Levi to the cab rank. I can’t drive him today – you can ask Howard if he’ll drive him, but it doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen. I’ll phone Jerome.’

‘I don’t need drivin’,’ said Levi, and now Howard properly noticed Levi and the new thing about Levi: a woman’s stocking, thin and black, on his head, tied at the back in a knot, with a small inadvertent teat like a nipple, on top.

Excerpted from On Beauty, (c) 2005 Zadie Smith. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Press. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Tom Jackson
    Growing up in Mumbai in the '70s, I still remember herbs kept fresh in small glasses of water, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Cruel Beautiful World
    by Caroline Leavitt

    A fast moving page-turner about the naiveté of youth and the malignity of power.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


© BookBrowse LLC 1997-2016. All rights reserved. Information at BookBrowse.com is published with the permission of the copyright holder or their agent.
It is forbidden to copy anything for publication elsewhere without written permission from the copyright holder.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.