White Teeth by Zadie Smith Review


What a magnificent piece of literature that has been long over due.

I have been meaning to read this novel for quite some time now because naturally I haven’t missed the big hype around Zadie and her novel.

White teeth definitely met the high expectations. It is well written, smart and actually pretty funny.

Without pointing it out the novel gives some sharp and insightful observations about modern London’s diverse society. We get an intimate insight into the lives of second generation and mixed origin Brits, working class and middle class people.  We learn about their fears, hopes and motivations for different actions. While describing the lives and thoughts of these people Zadie never gets judgemental or supercilious. Instead the novel reads as if a representative of each group has written their own part in the book.

At times I was stunned at how well Zadie manages to slip into different characters and situations, almost making us believe she has been there and experienced herself what she writes about. The world war second passages and her knowledge about different religions are good examples for this.

Her description of Islam or rather how different Brits practice Islam was authentic to a certain degree. However, most Muslims Zadie describes are either not really practicing and westernized to a large extent or they are overly religious and part of some extremist group. There seems to be a lack of ‘normal’ Muslims who practice their religion without turning to or into extremists. Maybe this lack is what Zadie has witnessed in the Muslim community when she grew up or maybe she doesn’t believe that there are balanced Muslim. The latter one seems rather unlikely however, given her unbiased narrative style.

Either way, this lack of moderate Muslim ‘companions’ and the choice between the westernized non practicing Muslims or the radical ones is what ultimately drives Millat into the world of narrow minded and strict branches of Islam. I believe the same might still be true nowadays for some young Muslims who turn to Salafism in order to escape the ‘corruptions’ of the west and to find acceptance.

According to Zadie reading as much as possible about any given topic is the best way to achieve this kind of deep knowledge.

I believe this novel has been past due because so far I haven’t come across many novels that would give people a hundred years from now an authentic and insightful account about the lives, dreams and hopes of Londoners in the 21st century.

But enough about literary aspect, let’s move on to my favourite post reading past time: Gossiping about the characters  😉

Irie Jones: She is insecure but a lovely person. Her crush on Millat is of course a recipe for a disaster but that it would result in a baby from either twin boy was definitely a shock.

Alsana: She needs to brighten up and have some fun in her life!

Magid: Such a bright person but totally lost touch with his roots and needs a dose of black (or brown) power. And of course the irony is cruel: His father sending him away to learn the Bengali culture and Magid coming back as an old fashioned English person with no interest in religion.


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