Howard Belsey, a Rembrandt scholar who doesnt like Rembrandt, is an Englishman abroad and a long-suffering Professor at Wellington, a New England Liberal Arts college. He has been married for thirty years to Kiki, an American woman who no longer resembles the sexy activist she once was.
Their three children passionately pursue their own paths; Levi quests after authentic blackness, Zora believes that intellectuals can redeem everybody, and Jerome struggles to be a believer in a family of strict atheists. Faced with the oppressive enthusiasms of his children, Howard feels that the first two acts of his life are over and he has no clear plans for the finale. Or the encore.
Then Jerome, Howards oldest son, falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing icon Monty Kipps. Increasingly, the two families find themselves thrown together in a beautiful corner of America, enacting a cultural and personal war against the background of real wars that they barely register. An infidelity, a death, then an unexpected legacy set in motion a chain of events which sees all parties forced to examine the unarticulated assumptions that underpin their lives. How do you choose the work on which to spend your life? Why do you love the people you love? Do you really believe what you claim to? And what are the really beautiful things in life and how far will you go to get them?
Set on both sides of the Atlantic, Zadie Smiths third novel is a brilliant analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and an honest look at peoples deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed.