Howard Belsey is an Englishman abroad, an academic teaching in Wellington, a college town in New England. Married young, thirty years later he is struggling to revive his love for his African American wife Kiki. Meanwhile, his three teenage children-Jerome, Zora and Levi-are each seeking the passions, ideals and commitments that will guide them through their own lives.
After Howard has a disastrous affair with a colleague, his sensitive older son, Jerome, escapes to England for the holidays. In London he defies everything the Belseys represent when he goes to work for Trinidadian right-wing academic and pundit, Monty Kipps. Taken in by the Kipps family for the summer, Jerome falls for Monty's beautiful, capricious daughter, Victoria.
But this short-lived romance has long-lasting consequences, drawing these very different families into each other's lives. As Kiki develops a friendship with Mrs Kipps, and Howard and Monty do battle on different sides of the culture war, hot-headed Zora brings a handsome young man from the Boston streets into their midst whom she is determined to draw into the fold of the black middle class-but at what price?
Set on both sides of the Atlantic, Zadie Smith's third novel is a brilliant look at family life, marriage, the collision of the personal and political, and an honest look at people's self-deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed. Book jacket.