Andrew's Reviews > White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
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's review
Jun 24, 2007

really liked it
Recommended for: those interested in colonial studies and britain today
Read in June, 2005

I actually don't remember a whole lot of this book, except that it's coming back to me now. Actually it's a lot like a Stephen Frears movie, the title of which doesn't come immediately to mind. He does a lot of movies about class and race relations in Britain, mostly pretty fascinating stuff. But as I recall, Zadie Smith's book is different in that it really seeks to develop characters as characters, not just as the product of their surroundings bound to act the way they do based on their circumstances, which Frears' films tend to do. Maybe it is the difference between film and novel - in film, to keep the viewer attentive, characters must be compelled, often due to their own choices earlier in the film. The characters drive the story, whereas in novels, there is more room for characters to behave inconsistently, that is to grow. The story drives the characters. Smith's characters feel like real people growing, not to mention her descriptive capabilities and use of imagery being top-notch, and her sense of humor being biting and dry, but not above the cheap and childish. Smith's places become characters, too, like all great novelists' settings. The house of the dysfunctional-ass white family has this whole hidden room/separate spheres thing. Anyway, as much as I remember about it, it was a good read, one of those books you hate to put down when you get into it. The chapters could have been shorter.
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