On On Beauty: A Novel: A Blog Post

Posting below, I forgot to mention my puzzlement about Howard’s End and On Beauty.

As we know, OB is an homage to HE. But it only really follows the plot up to about halfway through; much of HE simply isn’t in there. And elements which correspond – willing the painting as willing Howard’s End, for instance – are sidelined as the novel goes on.


Theory one: She couldn’t be bothered making it fit. She had a novel that she wanted to write, and that took precedence over pastiche and homage.

Theory two: One morning, she woke up with a brilliant idea for her next novel. She had a fully formed plot that turned on families from different worlds, an unlikely friendship and the disputed inheritance of a treasured possession. She started writing furiously, then one morning, over their bowls of Waitrose Choco Rice Pops, she effused about the new project (up till now, of course, she’d kept the silence necessary to forge great works in the erm forge of the mind. Not that forges are particularly silent places, but you see what I mean) to Nick Laird. He agreed it was a fabulous idea, and that he’d really enjoyed the way E.M. Forster had handled it.

Annoying. Wile E’s legs are still moving, but he’s gone over the edge of the cliff. What to do? Best plan: beef up the resemblances on the first half, add detailed correspondences, treat it as a work paying tribute to the original, and then just carry on with the somewhat different novel you’d planned in the second half.

Just speculation and invention, but it puzzles me why it isn’t much like HE, really.