On Beauty by Zadie Smith Penguin, $95 Her treatise on human imperfection, On Beauty, was 'a novel inspired by a love of E.M. Forster', says Zadie Smith. Themes dissected by Forster make a reappearance, albeit dressed for the 21st century. Just as gnarly relationships between the Schlegels and Wilcoxes illuminated class, family and political differences in Forster's Howards End, Smith's adaptation, given an American collegiate setting, brings such conflicts to the fore through the Belseys and Kippses. Howard Belsey is a liberal English lecturer in New England married to Kiki, a black woman; his counterpart is a right-wing Trinidadian in London. Apart from being fathers of teenagers, the men share a professional, competitive interest in Rembrandt, as well as an aversion to each other. The friendship between their wives serves only to deepen other kinks in the ties between the two families. Praise for Smith's third novel came from all directions, with The Independent naming it 'the most exuberant and enjoyable novel on the Booker short list' and The New Statesman declaring that 'Smith can outwrite all but a few of her contemporaries, and everyone her age'.