So, White Teeth by Zadie Smith has been on my ‘to read’ list for a really long time and I finally decided to buy a copy and take a read as part of my four books in March challenge. I had heard it featured characters of colour who were also British, quite prominently too, which immediately made me interested. I am making it a focus in my personal reading, to try to read as many authors of colour as well as stories which have representation. White Teeth was one of the top recommended when I searched within these categories, hence why it was on my list. Now on to the actual review!
The novel starts off through the perspective of one of the main characters, Archie Jones attempting to commit suicide after his marriage has failed and he see’s his life as utterly unfulfilling. He is in the process of doing so when an encounter with a stranger, makes Archie re-evaluate his decision and he chooses life. After which, the plot of the novel further unfolds and we get an indication of where it is going. Through these sections of the book we meet Clara Bowden, a young Jamaican woman, another main character who we see develop over the course of the novel. Archies long time friend Samad Iqbal and his wife, alongside his children are also main characters and very important within the book. We see the way these two mens lives and families are interwoven and tied together for generations and I enjoyed this sense of a strong friendship / foundation.
The novel is separated into multiple perspectives, the major chunk we see through either the lens of Archie or Samad. I find it an interesting choice, to have both past and present perspectives, the novel is very good at interweaving the two without it being confusing. We see the characters struggles of identity, in terms of their religion, race and gender. There is also a great deal of humour in the book, there are some bits that are meant to be scathing or brutally honest. It is not for someone who gets easily offended I would say, but again we have to remember this is fiction.
The novel wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was still a pretty good read and I could relate to different aspects throughout. I feel like the way the way immigration and integration was dealt with was somewhat realistic; with some characters desperately trying to uphold their original traditions and others abandoning them altogether. We often see this struggle in second or third generation children, and the young adults in Smiths novel are no exception.
Overall, I would give the book a 3/5. I did enjoy reading it, and think it addresses important and valid issues, however I couldn’t really connect to the characters as much as I would have liked to. I’m not sure why, but there was something missing for me, personally. I would still recommend it though and for you to find out what you think!
If you’ve read White Teeth already, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
If you’ve read any other of Zadie Smiths books, would you recommend them?