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Actually, I didn't loathe the book; the book didn't manage to evoke an emotion of that strength. I found it all a bit insipid and dull, to be honest. Some people have complained about the rambling length but I think a vast length was fitting for a novel of this ambition and considering her vast cast of characters. Characters were the problem. I didn't particularly like or care about any of them. They were merely representations from different races, without flesh and blood and life. It was easy to observe them but hard to really become involved with them. And, though I'm white, I've grown up in a multi-cultural family, & I found some of the Asians very stereotyped: the Bangledeshi women reminded me of characters off Eastenders. I also found the author's cynicism about religion rather narrow, perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of the book considering her themes. She found it impossible to present any religion without portraying it as an emotional crutch. I would like more detachment from the author here. I am not a Bible-basher or even a believer, but having grown up with both CHristians and HIndus, I think it is possible to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of different faiths without reducing the narrative into a rather childish 'all god-types are nutters'which is what Zadie does, and dully.
The book's strength is the authorial confidence. People have noted the weak research, inaccuracies and historial loop holes (maybe they don't matter that much anyway) but I think the author is actually good at pretending to write as though she knows what she is talking about.Read more ›
One of the book's main flaws is that in addition to these five major characters, there are the mothers of each, and a veritable wagonload of important supporting characters, including a third family that appears well into the book. There's a lot of coming and going and coming, and on and on as characters assume central importance for ten pages, only to disappear for two-hundred. Smith is trying to weave a very complicated web (many critics call this aspect of the book "Dickensian"), but in doing so, the transitions become awfully jarring, and very often, annoying. A second major issue is that the characters are all types of one sort or another. Smith sets them in motion in order to comment on her grab-bag of issues, but never quite gives them enough individuality or humanity.Read more ›