White Teeth by Zadie Smith

I have owned a copy of White Teeth by Zadie Smith, from memory, three times (possibly more). In my late teens, mid-twenties, and now. A novel so wonderfully formed that it was overwhelming to my untrained reading mind.

As per my Common Reader Effect, it was third time lucky and White Teeth finally felt within reach – I’m so glad I waited this long to finally read it.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith“One of the most talked about fictional debuts ever, White Teeth is a funny, generous, big-hearted novel, adored by critics and readers alike. Dealing – among many other things – with friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, one brown mouse, and the tricky way the past has of coming back and biting you on the ankle, it is a life-affirming, riotous must-read of a book.” GoodReads.

White Teeth is a rich, layered, beautifully written novel. Had I forced myself through it before I don’t think I would have understood all its glory. At times it felt too long, and at others not long enough.

Zadie Smiths is a clever writer, not just in form, but her representation of what it is to be different in white England. The book spans years and generations, at each time her world’s feel well researched, with what I felt could only be accurate descriptions of the attitudes and actions of each culture and generation.

Whether it’s old Samad or young Irie, Smith rounds out each perfectly, their dreams, fears and desire to belong. Every character has a purpose, and if you meet them once be sure that you will meet them again. This is a novel that pulls itself apart before imploding back together. Immigration, race, family, belonging, culture, religion – are just some of the themes Smith discusses in detail. For a novel written 16 or so years ago, it still seems as significant today.

White Teeth is also a funny novel, but as I often find it hard to laugh through books the humour – marvellous as it was – passed me by.


Have you read any Zadie Smith before?



Shiny New Books Are My Bag

Issue 12 of Shiny New Books was released last week, full of the usual delights. I reviewed About My Mother By Tahar Ben Jelloun, and here are some of the reviews I enjoyed:

I also had no idea it was Bookshop Day last Saturday, that is until I saw the tweets around lunch time. So I got myself up and headed into Brighton to Waterstones to buy some books. I was struggling to find something I wanted to read and this solved that issue, as I got His Bloody Project and White Teeth. I’ve been trying to read White Teeth for about 10 years now and I think I’m finally in a place mentally to do it.

What did you do for #BookShopDay?

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, is the second (and last) book shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker short-list that I’ve read, and while it is utterly different to Eileen, it’s left me with a similar aftertaste. I’m both impressed and disturbed.

It’s so good in fact, that I honestly thought it was based on real historical events, I only know it isn’t because the Man Booker is a prize awarded for a novel. Which probably means I need my Ravenclaw access revoked. However, this speaks volumes for the authentic feel of the novel Burnet presents.

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

“A brutal triple murder in a remote northwestern crofting community in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that Macrae is guilty, but the police and courts must uncover what drove him to murder the local village constable. And who were the other two victims? Ultimately, Macrae’s fate hinges on one key question: is he insane? ” GoodReads.

His Bloody Project is hard reading, it’s not a gripping read. However, I recommend fighting through the lacklustre text to get the overall impression of the murders Roderick Macrae committed. Burnet aptly recreates the tone you would expect from a Victorian setting. Your reading investment will pay off.

The book is split into sections; witness statements, Roderick’s memoir, medical examinations, psychologist reports, and extracts of the trail. Roderick’s memoir is cold and detached. He speaks very matter-of-factly and while he describes situations that clearly pained or upset him you don’t feel that emotion come through. He accepts what he did was wrong, but that death was the only option. At first, it feels as though he is resigned to his fate, but as you read on through the evidence and trial you wonder if this is evidence of his madness, or if he may indeed be a psychopath.

Which ultimately became the mystery of the book, as certain details – which I won’t spoil – come to light, you begin to doubt what you ‘know’. With the added benefit of reading this novel now, with the advancement in the studies of the mind, to perhaps see elements of Roderick’s behaviour that indicate he wasn’t the same as his peers. You’re all at once in the novel, in 1869, and outside of it with modern knowledge.

It’s also a fascinating look at the situation of the poor, and how people of lower-income were (unfairly or incorrectly) perceived. You feel for the Macrae’s, punished for being different and for not being economically fortunate. Burnet’s representation of the misunderstanding of Criminality is excellent. The idea that features of a person that dictate criminality (pigeon chest, high cheekbones, misshapen cranium) are as fascinating as they are maddening.

I found while I couldn’t align myself with Roderick, I couldn’t condemn him either. He wasn’t right, but the situation wasn’t fair.

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet was a fascinating read, you may find it a little slow going, but it’s more than worth powering through!

How many of the shortlist have you read?

Brighton Toy Museum

Literary Life: October in Review

I’m wearing a jumper, I’ve switched to a winter quilt, and I’m considering a fringe – it must be autumn.

September was a quiet month and rather depressingly I’m having to check Instagram to see if I’ve done anything. Who needs a memory when you’ve got social media…..

I went to the Brighton Toy Museum, which is adorable if a little train heavy (luckily, I love a train). My friend Agnes and I (almost) aced the child’s puzzle and we felt rather smug about it.


In other news, I faced a big change last month and I’ve had to do a fair amount of soul-searching to come to terms with the change.

Brace yourselves. I’m a Ravenclaw.

I’ve finally come to accept that my obvious genius utterly overpowers my capacity for evil. It’s not been easy to accept, but sometimes you just need to accept that who you are when you take the Pottermore quiz when it began isn’t the person you are when you take it in your 30s, and you need to deal with that. It does beg the question, what am I going to do with my Slytherin robes…?

Also, my Patronus is a Mastiff, I’m not sure whether to be pleased or not. Thoughts?

Currently Reading:

Bel-Ami – Monpaussant
Parade’s End – Ford Madox Ford


We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson (I spoiled myself and then got put off)

I’ve Read:

  1. About My Mother: A Novel – Tahar Ben Jelloun
  2. Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh
  3. Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame – Mara Wilson
  4. Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide – J.K. Rowling
  5. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies – J.K. Rowling
  6. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists – J.K. Rowling

Eileen – as you will have gathered from my review on Monday – utterly disturbed me. I’m still not sure what I think of it.

How was your literary September?