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.
“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?