Wednesday, February 15, 2006

White Teeth

I finished White Teeth, Zadie Smith's debut novel, yesterday. It was an amazing book. It reaches back in time to reference the character's ancestors, but is based in the melting pot of North London, where the central characters live. Archie (a white Brit) and Samad (a Muslim Bengali immigrant, despairing of his children's assimilation) have a friendship based on their military service together. Archie marries half-Jamaican, recovering Jehovah's Witness Clara and lives near Samad's family. The book takes off from here, exploring the ancestry that defines the characters and the new directions of their offspring. I highly recommend it!


Holly said...

Allison, Is this book anything like Behind the Scenes at the Museum where they jump around in time talking about the family? or is it mostly chronological in its approach with regard to talking about the ancestors? I'm just curious.

allisonmariecat said...

It's not as free-flowing as Behind the Scenes at the Museum. It's mostly chronological, with some flashbacks. So, it starts with Archie in 1974 (which is when the chronological narrative starts) and flashes back to Archie and Samad in World War II. There are really only two deep flashbacks, to Samad's great grandfather and Clara's grandmother, and these are only through characters talking about them. So you're not suddenly immersed in a new (old) character the way you are in Atkinson's books. The ancestors aren't real characters, just presences and influences in the character's lives.