Tells the story of two families, one Bangladeshi and one British/Jamaican, living in London from the 1940s through the 1990s. The husbands meet during WWII and remain friends as their children grow up, rebel against their parents, and figure out their places in society.
This report prepared by Beth Hoffman
This is quite a complex and engaging account of contemporary Britian in the face of its ending colonial prowess and beginning post-colonial identity. The characters all come face to face with what it means to live in a post-colonial, multi-ethnic country and they struggle with understanding identity and morality in this new environment. However, the sombre subject does not overshadow the book; there are light moments of human frailty and silliness.
This report prepared by Sallie Hirsch
WHITE TEETH,a metaphor for the perfect blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon Englishman or woman, is a novel that seeks to show that there is no such animal. "Do you think anybody is English: Really English? It's a fairy tale." screams the Bengali wife Alsana.
Zadie Smith, writing her first book at the age of 23, peoples her story with two main characters: Archie, (Alfred Archibald Jones), a working-class Englishman, and Samad Igbal, a Bengali Muslim, now a waiter in a touristy Indian restaurant.
Both men wives half their age.
Samad, who proudly acknowledges his famous great grandfather, Mangal Pande, as the Bengal leader who first died fighting the English in India in 1857,has twin sons, Magid and Millat.
Magid is the symbol of fundamentalist Muslim tradition, while Millat, who speaks the very up-to-date street language of the young London tough, is the symbol of the assimilaated, anglicized Brit.
Archie marries Clara who gives birth to their daughter, Irie, the Jamaican word for "no problem".
In a(n) hilarious episode, Irie tries to get her beautiful, waist-length, curly hair straightened in an attempt to win Millat's love.
"WHITE TEETH" is an attempt to portray polyglot London inhabitants as the real English , as indeed they are, but the novel bogs down in a wealth of detailed research that obstructs, rather than pushes the story forward.
Zadie Smith pays homage to the author, Zalman Rushdie, whose novels are full of textural richness, but Rushdie is a master or ironic storytelling. Smith is still a beginner.
This report prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson