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White Teeth by Zadie Smith - Book Review

Title
Author
Publisher

White Teeth
Zadie Smith
Penguin

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

One of the most talked-about fictional debuts of recent years, 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, White Teeth is a life-affirming, riotous must-read of a book.

We Say

It's inevitable that I'm going to mention the hype surrounding this book. The frenzy built in momentum to such an extent that I was expecting nothing less than very great things from Zadie Smith and her first novel. All this is a bit of a shame because, had I not been expecting great things, I would probably have thought it was a pretty good book. As it is, I feel just a little let down. The truth is, White Teeth could be fantastic but it is undeniably flawed.

When Zadie Smith gets it right, she almost touches the feathery fringes of perfection. The prose is eloquent yet forceful. Often, she is able to nail an image, dead centre. When this happens, it is as if nothing else could have ever described that particular feeling or situation. Also, the scope of the story is massive - it touches on so many different subjects and so much of history that the description of 'epic' is not used without foundation. The settings, from wartime Russia to seventies London, were described vividly. In short, it is an unbelievably ambitious first novel. This is itself, makes it worth a look.

Unfortunately, the ambitiousness of the book has also led to some of its downfalls. It is too long. Because it had been such a drawn out journey, I felt that a lot of the book's impact was lost at the end. Some of the characters are not convincing. I found the middle-class Chalfen family extremely irritating and difficult to believe in. It's an irony that, because of the existence of the near-perfect moments, the book suffers. It makes it more obvious when Zadie Smith is getting it wrong. That said, don't be put off - there's a lot to like and lot to learn in White Teeth.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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