Drawing you in with the immediacy of her tantalizing wit, Zadie Smith sets herself apart as a defining voice of contemporary literature. Her internationally acclaimed novel boldly and humorously bridges three London families across a cultural and generational divide.
©2000 Zadie Smith; (P)2001 Recorded Books
"The scrambled, heterogeneous sprawl of mixed-race and immigrant family life in gritty London nearly overflows the bounds of this stunning, polymathic debut novel." (Publishers Weekly)
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
“...the wicked lie, that the past is always tense and the future, perfect.”
― Zadie Smith, White Teeth
I planned on writing my full review of this book a couple days after I read it in October of 2014. I was afraid if I wrote it immediately it would be too sappy, too indulgent, too full of praise. I would probably just go on and on and you all might think I was in love or something. So, like I am want, I put the review off -- meaning to get to it -- and here I am finally writing about the book almost two years after I first read it. I don't know if the delay points more towards my sometimes best laid plans falling and failing, or my anal need to complete the circle and check things off lists.
Seriously, the book was fantastic. I loved it. It was a big, hairy, kinky, ambitious first novel and Zadie Smith pulled it off. I'm not sure why I'm reading so many novels (McTeague) concerned with dentistry and teeth lately. A bit weird. Anyway, enough!
I'm glad I waited, however, because Zadie Smith seems to posses for England that same fresh breath that Lin-Manuel Miranda exhibits with his musical Hamilton. Sometimes, a place is best described by immigrants to that place. Sometimes the change that happens to a city or nation because of immigrants is hard to measure in the first couple years. Just look at London now. London has elected its first Muslim mayor. This has more to do with some of the huge demographic changes than with a super-multiculturalism in London, but it still isn't nothing.
I remember reading a short article in the Guardian a while back that pointed out that in regards to Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh, “the three groups share many areas in common, but the Punjabi Sikhs in Southall and southeast London, the Gujarati Hindus in northwest London, and the Bengali Muslims in Tower Hamlets stand out most of all.” (The Guardian). The thing I loved was just realizing that the London of Dickens and Shakespeare was now a completely different place. It was a place where the colonized were becoming the colonizers. It was a giant piece of Karma. And not in a bad way. The greatest piece of wisdom is we never fully grasp the bad and the good of our decisions and policies. I'm pretty damn sure Queen Victoria and those that followed her and advised her never saw this coming as they began the British Raj.
So, I love how 'White Teeth' just swirls and dances and dervishes with ideas of race, identity, and religious antagonism. The book is a fiction, but the competition between ethnicities, even while the white majority loses their shit is not fiction. Even though 'White Teeth' debuted as the 21st century was dawning, it painted a fictionalized but very real novel about the struggles America, England, and Europe are going through right now. Think of the reaction to Muslim refugees, the hostility that Barack Obama faced over his birth-certificate, the fear that drives the radical right agendas from Hungary to Norway as Western Europe and Western Civilization loses (gradually) their majority lock on political and demographic power. When the mayor of London and the President of the United States of America wouldn't have been allowed to eat in the same high-brow London and New York clubs 60 years ago, it is kinda amazing to see how far we've come. However, it is also humbling when you read blogs and comments and hell, just watch Trump on Fox News to see how far we still need to go.
Anyway, back to 'White Teeth'. The brilliance of this book is Zadie Smith addresses all of this with humor, beauty and narrative magic. She avoids the twin traps of triviality and preachiness. She spins a fascinating yarn that entertains while pushing the reader to grapple with the realities that were faced by Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal in 1945, and the realities we faced when Obama was elected, and the problems we all currently face.
Fundamentally, I believe, things become a lot simpler when we can view people as individuals. Viewing Zadie Smith as an individual it is easy to see her brilliance, her potential, and her ability from her first book to play with the big boys of English fiction. The future is already here and Zadie Smith is just waiting for history and the rest of us to catch up.
The book is great but there is an error in the audio/chapter breaks that has them come at the wrong time making the actual chapter breaks come in the middle of the digital chapters and sentences crammed on top of one another when the digital chapter switches over mid actual chapter.
This book is incredible. The memories pile up as you follow the characters through their lives in a way I've never experienced before. The performance contributed effectively without being distracting. Magnificent.
The story line really is amazing. Three generations have their stories blended together showing that fate cannot be escaped.
The narrator gets her accents mixed up once in a while but that's the only bad part.
Engaging story with skillful characterization. Narrator was slow-paced in many passages, but colorful. The humor is refreshing.
There are some interesting ideas and insights in this book. Unfortunately, they're completely swamped by the many obvious, implausible, silly, and downright ridiculous elements that I found myself more and more anxious to finish the book. Not so I could find out how it ends, but just so it would end. I kept thinking this must have been written for 'young adults,' but clearly it wasn't. It's just not very well written.
A good fictional representation of how immigrants in England relate today and connect to the colonial history of the lands they are from. It was an engaging read but the ending kind of tried to do too much and lost me. Also, as someone from Jamaica, I felt some aspects of the culture and story there were not as accurate as they could be but still enjoyed most of the story.
slow tedious dialogue punctuated by short bursts of narrative progression.
started three times. I tried... really I tried...
couldn't finish it.
Entertaining with twist and turns. Surprising ending. Characters were well played by the narrators. Interesting story line with all of the different lives woven in.
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