what am i doing here?

i finally read white teeth by zadie smith. i had heard about it for so long, heard so many good things, but had never really felt like reading it. (what i'm especially bummed about is that i bought it the day it came out in trade, and by the time i got around to it this week, it had already come out in paperback. grrr.) i picked it up this week in response to byron's email that i had to read it. ask, and ye shall receive!

well, i wasn't disappointed. well, ok, i was a little. but to be fair, it was one of those things that happens when a book's been so hyped, so built up, nothing could possibly live up to it. and really, you know what? this book almost did.

it wasn't at all what i expected. for some strange reason, i was expecting hip londoners struggling with modern urban problems, such as drugs and jobs. wow - that is so NOT what this book is. in a nutshell, it's a look at three different generations of immigrants who are visibily different, struggling to figure out where they belong, what is expected of them, what they expect of themselves, and what they can live with. it's a book about cycles, being caught up in them, trying to break with them, and trying to honour them. as a second generation canadian myself, it resonated on a lot of levels.

it is the story of three families whose lives intertwine : the Jones, the Iqbals, and the Chalfens. their histories and their lives in a london suburb. their beliefs, values, principles, desires, longings, all on a collision course that culminates wonderfully. it's an ambitious book that doesn't fall short of the writer's vision.

the writing itself is superb. smith has an ear for dialogue and accents, and expertly weaves drama with comedy. there was even a faint faint aftertaste reminiscent of the whimsy found in the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulin.

i recommend this book. and i look forward to whatever smith does next. and thinking back on it, i may not have been even a little disappointed, after all.

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