Want a novel that feels like a stroll down quirky side streets with a good friend? Read on!
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
Smith weaves an intricate web of characters in North London in the 70’s. By sharing their interconnected lives, she explores how we come to understand ourselves as people by situating ourselves in the threadlines of history and culture, in the stories we tell, in what we choose to remember of our pasts.
There’s army vet buddies Archie and Samad, re-hashing their glory days in an unchanging pub. Magid, a brilliant young man who distances himself from his family through his academic elitism. Millat, a charismatic punk pothead/Muslim militant. Irie, half-Jamaican, half-English, struggling with her developing sexuality and her place in a lineage of fierce Jamaican women. We watch each character construct an identity by choosing the causes and histories that will define them.
Those seeking a streamlined plot will be disappointed. But I didn’t mind that she introduced too many characters to fully maintain, or that some plot choices felt forced, because the real pleasure is the narrative voice. Like the director’s cut of a film, Smith quips and points out quirks. She pauses mid-scene and flits between characters, showcasing choice morsels from their internal monologues. If you find Smith long-winded, or too distracted, it might drag. But if, like me, you enjoy her style, the book will be a witty delight.
The 213 in 2013 series chronicles every book I read in 2013. Each review contains exactly 213 words, because 2013 words is too long and 2013 characters is too dang short.