Sunday, January 17, 2010

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

What does it mean to be English?

This book starts out so memorably – so full of energy and funny. A breath of fresh air. This novel works on so many levels – the prose is rollicking and the themes are IMPORTANT –the immigrant experience, colonialism, racism, the thoughtless tinkering of science, Islamic fundamentalism, the past impinging on the present. This is the story of three families, the mixed Jones, the immigrant Iqbals, the intellectually superior Chalfens. It’s not just about teenagers smoking cigarettes. I loved the characters – they were very passionate, quirky, fully realized, the kind Archie, the outraged Samad , the yin yang twins. However, a problem is that the book never quite hit the very superior high point of the opening section. And then, disappointingly, the ending feels forced, too many brilliantly colored threads to be wrapped up. Doesn’t quite work – the last section felt hurriedly written and tacked on.

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