Book #41: White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

Being productive is a wonderful feeling. Just moments ago, I finished reading Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, marking the first book I’ve read toward the upcoming semester’s reading list. I’m happy to report that I made a good decision in starting with a smart, funny, thoroughly entertaining novel.

White Teeth was already on my tentative reading list for 2015, so the fact that it ended up being an assigned text for a World Lit class I’m taking this fall worked nicely with my life plans. I went into reading White Teeth with very little knowledge of what it was about; I knew this was Smith’s first novel, took place primarily between the 1970s and 1990s in London, and was apparently funny. All good things, I suppose.

Turns out, the book is divided into four sections that shift focus among a pretty large ensemble of characters. We start with Archibald and Samad, friends since they served together in World War II, and then quickly branch out to meet their families over the course of several years. The book is full of culture clash, featuring characters of various racial, cultural, religious, and economical, and sexual backgrounds. Needless to say, this book leaves readers with a lot to think about.

Despite the complexity of the characters and story, White Teeth is an easy-to-read, funny book. Smith is able to write in a way that is eloquent and thought-provoking without ever being unapproachable. To me, this is an incredible and rare talent that makes me all the more interested in reading more of Smith’s works.

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Side note: another of the things I knew related to this book before reading it was that there’s an English miniseries adaptation of the novel. I did a presentation on adaptation for a class last fall, and the book I read on the subject had lots of discussion with Smith about her perceptions of the visual adaptation of her work. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to watch it yet, but I have high hopes of doing so sometime soon.

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