White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

What a wonderful book! Rarely does an author come along who can both describe and encapsulate popular culture as well as Zadie Smith does, and in her first novel, no less. Throughout the book, we follow two families, the Bengali Iqbals and the half-English/half-Jamaican Joneses. Their lives entwine together after Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal "fight" in WWII together, and even more so after they both take much younger wives who become pregnant within months of each other. The narrative description is interesting and moves along, the dialogue is realistic, funny, and heartbreaking, and the story is impressive. One can only imagine how much research Smith had to do to make her Jamaican, Bengali, British, Jehovah's Witness, Muslim, etc. characters so believable.

My only complaint with the book is the alacrity with which the climax is reached. We read through 400 pages of backstory and build-up, and then the denouement takes a little less than 30 pages to achieve. It's like Smith was given a page limit, spent a lot of time writing the book, and then realized that she had to end it soon and couldn't bear to cut out anything that had come before. She could have taken a little more time to craft a satisfying ending, but other than that, this is absolutely a book I would recommend.


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