by Zadie Smith
read: circa 2006
Guardian 1000 Novels, Orange Prize
Zadie Smith is a great writer, but On Beauty felt like paint-by-numbers. Professor Amy Hungerford's lecture on the identity plot made me realize what I had found flat about the book. While White Teeth was a fun look at the different iterations of culture and identity that permeate British society, On Beauty just felt like the same thing re-scrambled. "I'll set it in America this time! But the man will be English-born. And we'll have a Trinidadian family instead of an Indian one." Smith's prose is still strong, inventive and witty, so the novel is worth reading, but I would have found it more original if I hadn't read one of her books before.