On Beauty views the comedy inherent in university life, a microcosmic world dominated by domestic and professional conflict, its undercurrents, human irresolution and betrayal. Many of the central characters are active or putative intellectuals, and through their lives Smith catalogues the shibboleths and fractures of a contemporary liberal culture in crisis. Beneath the political infighting and family debates lurks Howard’s earlier affair with colleague, Claire Malcolm, initially secret and later revealed publicly. Smith cartographizes both parenthood and marital love, through the failings of Howard’s marriage investigating concepts of ethics and respect. Howard’s emotional inarticulacy is transcended partially only by his belated inner sense of an aesthetic imperative. The novel’s humour centres on both the narrator’s personal and social observations and the dialogue which is attuned to the misunderstandings of highly intellectualized perspectives and a more common sense view. This animates the various settings intersected by various members of the two central families: the Belsey home, the Kipps homes in both Boston and London, Wellington College’s campus, Boston Centre and Common, and the megastore where the youngest Belsey child, Levi, works.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- On Beauty
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number