Book Review: WHITE TEETH, by Zadie Smith

This is a novel of "grand proportions," I think. Certainly, WHITE TEETH is "astonishing," "dazzling," a real "tour-de-force"--one could even conceivably call this "the first great novel of the new century." All those phrases that have turned up on the dusk jackets of less deserving books, the phrases rendered meaningless by overuse (my dad and I recently looked up tour de force: "A feat requiring great virtuosity or strength, often deliberately undertaken for its difficulty: 'In an extraordinary structural tour de force the novel maintains a dual focus'"--you may note that the example cited is literary), apply to WHITE TEETH in the very best sort of way: what all those other "beguiling" novels attempt, WHITE TEETH succeeds at beautifully.

Somehow, Zadie Smith manages to get her hands good and dirty telling the tale of three London families, with their diverse backgrounds (Bengalese, Jamaican, "more English than the English")--there's scientific progress in there, religious fundamentalism, immigration, and several other bigger-than-big issues. In fact, I'm flustered just trying to sum up WHITE TEETH. How about: you'll love the characters. You'll get really into them, and anything they do or say or suffer will be fascinating because they, the characters, are so great.


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