by Sukey HowardDecember, 2005
Inside the culture wars
In her third novel, On Beauty, Zadie Smith has done something quite extraordinary. While she spins a rangy tale of parents and children, husbands and wives, domestic distress and acrimonious academic politics, she takes an incisive look at race and class and the divisive politics surrounding them in America today and does so with non-racist humor and grace. Your sympathies may shift as members of two academic families (I'll leave you the fun of discovering their details) ensconced at a prestigious liberal arts college make their way, make their mistakes, espouse their views and irritate their spouses, but your interest will hold. Peter Francis James' fabulous performance sounds like a full cast recording, without a false note whether the voice is black or white, British, Trinidadian or American, male or female, warm or pompous.