Sunday, June 26, 2016

toothy 2: literary edition

I'm entering the homestretch now on Zadie Smith's White Teeth. No sense in me running down the plot, because it's not really that kind of book, although assuredly things do happen. Best way to sum it up is that it's a multi-decade, intergenerational story based around two families in London. One is Bangladeshi and Muslim. The other is the product of an old-fashioned Englishman and his much younger Jamaican wife.

While the book is set in the late twentieth century, it feels a lot like a nineteenth century novel in many ways. Smith's narrator has the tones of a wise pub storyteller, like those of Dickens and Thackeray, rather than the detached third person of modernist fiction.

One thing I like about it is that everyone is wrong, in their own way. The character you sympathize with the most will simply be the one whose wrongness you're best able to tolerate. For me it's probably the Bengal matriarch Alsana, but if you read it you could pick someone else.


susan said...

You've made this one sound interesting enough that not only is it now on my list of books to read but it will soon be on its way here. No, not from the library even though I do sometimes get them there, but from Abe Books - a clearing house for used books. Just so you know I'm not being profligate in my spending the copy I bought cost $1 and s&h was $2. Granted that was in US dollars, but even so.

I like the idea of reading about a multi-generational family of non-native English people living in that place at that time. Have you ever read Amitav Ghosh? He hasn't written about London but he has written some very interesting books about the effects of the British Empire.

Ben said...

Pretty good deal. I've only dealt with Abe Books once, because the seller wound up sending me the book long after it was due, and didn't seem to know what they were doing. It was for a book club too, although due to some personnel changes I was leaning toward leaving the club anyway, which I did. Most of their dealers probably aren't like that.

Anyway, I think you'll like the book. I haven't read any Amitav Ghoxh yet, but since hearing your recommendation I've started to look into some titles.