One may as well begin with Jerome’s e-mails to his father.
Zadie Smith doesn’t write plots, she creates characters.
On Beauty is an every-day-of-the-life story of the Belsey family. Mother, father, two sons and a daughter in an university town. As the father is white, the mother black and the children (therefore) mixed, daily life involves judgment against skin colour as well. Especially Levi, the youngest son, spends a lot of thought (and action) on his place in society and how his skin colour influences it.
In this daily life there are troubles at the university, affairs, trying to create friendships and children who can’t find their spot in society. There is no apocalypse, no aliens. Only, almost paralysing painful, human daily life.
This takes some getting used to. The only way the story moves is through time and character depth. Some of the characters keep making the same mistakes, and they are human and threedimensional enough to get under your skin. Don’t read this for an adventure, read this to get to meet new people.
On Beauty, Zadie Smith, Hamilton 2006