newwavepolly

White Teeth - Zadie Smith On the basis of my personal enjoyment of reading this book, it's a solid three stars. I've debated a bit with giving it four stars because I loved the themes present, and the messages and points it was trying to make, but overall I just didn't like it enough to warrant four stars.


By far the best parts of White Teeth were the parts centered around the teenage children of the two central families. I found those characters and their stories interesting and compelling where the stories of the family patriarchs were dragging and repetitive. I liked the look at the so-called multicultural England through the point of view of the teenagers. Their narratives were abundant in the themes of race and class and showed the identity struggle and casual racism they were exposed to as a result of being a minority race in a white place.

I also found the Chalfen family interesting, if insufferable. They are a large perpetrator of casual racism and ignorance, despite their boasting of high IQs and being largely intellectual. Through the PoV of the characters Irie, Millat and Alsana they're a kind of villain but in reality they just hold the typical ignorance and unawareness of a white, middle class family. One of the standout displays of ignorance and unawareness is in Marcus Chalfen's reaction to other people's reaction of his work in and books about genetics. He genuinely can't understand why people (particularly people of colour) would look at his work in genetic manipulation on a mouse and jump to a eugenic genocide of minority races by a society that puts white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes on priority.

Zadie Smith's prose and writing style was wonderful, and thematically White Teeth was great, but the narrative and characters left something to desire. I can't pinpoint the exact reason why this book was a bit meh, besides the fact that it wasn't incredibly intriguing or enjoyable. I don't really like that I didn't enjoy this books so much, I was hoping to love it and become a fan of Smith.

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