White Teeth, a novel by Zadie Smith, unravels the lives of two soldiers who fought in World War II and the friendship that stems from their shared experience. The novel follows the two men back to London, intertwining their wives and children. It explores the racial identity of immigrants in the UK and the treatment of those who fought for the Empire.
Smith’s characters did not only grow up in the same area as me but went to school and hung out in all the places that I did. This meant that reading White Teeth ignited a sense of nostalgia of high school days and places long gone. Reading White Teeth felt like I was reading a story of my own coming of age, as a teenage growing up in Brent, I too felt the emotions of the characters as well as some of the experiences detailed in the novel.
One thing that took me a while to get used to was the style of writing. The Realism caught me off-guard as the last time I had read something similar was Zola’s L’Assommoir. Realism, although brilliantly used by Smith, is by far my least favourite writing style unless used by Balzac. Furthermore, the novel’s inconsistency in personal pronouns sometimes leaves the reader confused when trying to decipher whose perspective the chapter is in.
The biggest criticism I have for the novel is the lacklustre ending. In less than two pages, Zadie attempts to succinctly summarise years of experiences in a few lines leaving the audience with a sense of unfulfillment. The ending felt like a tv series that has been cancelled too soon, before viewers could have their questions answered.
Although I adored the familiarity of the places and experiences described in the novel, the style of writing made it difficult for me to get into the novel as it took almost 50 pages before I could begin to enjoy the novel. This is a novel I would recommend to a friend as I feel like it outlines part of my experiences growing up in Brent. However, due to its slow start and uninspiring ending, I would rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Thank you for reading.