Thursday, February 14, 2008

Zadie Smith: White Teeth

Remember I was busy reading this a few posts back? I just finished it and it took me longer than normal on this sort of novel. I think part of the reason I was slower with this was the large amout of dialogue in North London accents which I sometimes had to read several times to figure out what it was, or simply wanted to read it several times (sometimes even out loud!) to get a feel for how it would sound. But I'm not complaining - I often find myself zooming through books much too fast and it was nice to take this one a bit slower.

White Teeth was Zadie Smith's debut novel, published in 2000. It is a kind of epic novel following two main characters, Archie, an Englishman and Samad, Bengali, who were in the same tank crew in World War II, and who later in life meet again in North London, and the subsequent relationships between their wives and children. Late in the novel another family gets thrown into the mix. The novel is a rollercoaster ride from one theme to another, from one character to another, touching on things like race, immigrants, religion, genetic engineering, sibling rivalry, parenting, fundamentalism, class and cultural differences, feminism, love and history. It is a fascinating ride, very intellectual at times, humorous and entertaining at others. I have to say, despite the two main characters not being the easiest of protagonists to identify with (for me anyway) I ended up really enjoying the book. I also liked the way the author wove the image of teeth (from the title) in and out of the book.

My favorite character in the book was Irie, Archie's daughter, and the one I liked the least was Joyce, the mother of the third family that gets involved. And of course, Future Mouse steals the show at the end!

I also loved that the ending was very satisfying, tying up a few loose strings, bring some themes full circle and leaving you with the feeling that the characters lives went on and on, just like real people, but no dreadful feeling like I sometimes have with books, where it seems to me that the most interesting part of the characters lives is what comes after the conclusion of the book. No, with this book, I definitely have the feeling that I have just been served all the most significant parts of their lives and I can live quite happily with the ending.

I will definitely be looking to read more of Zadie Smith in the future. I noticed that our library has a few of her novels in the original and I am thinking On Beauty might be the next one I read.


Teddy Rose said...

I loved White Teeth too!

I recently read about 100 pages of On Beauty and put it aside for now. It is nowhere near as good as White Teeth, but I do plan to pick it up again.

Amy said...

Hmmm...maybe I'll give it a miss then!