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charlettday@hotmail.com (Sheffield, UK)

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A Monk Swimming
A Monk Swimming
by Malachy McCourt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He must have kissed the Blarney Stone ..., 13 May 2002
This review is from: A Monk Swimming (Paperback)
Malachy McCourt's collection of yarns about his early years in the States make a hilarious read. Irreverent, boisterous and shrillingly anti-British, he regales us with tale after tale of his exploits in New York City and beyond. This isn't a literary masterpiece and some of McCourt's behaviour is far from exemplary, but he sure can tell a good story!


White Teeth
White Teeth
by Zadie Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 'too long' novel about race and identity, 11 Mar. 2002
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
This is an enthusiastic attempt at a multi-racial, inter-family tale spanning three generations. The author claims that the work is not about race, but its title and the continual juxtaposition of characters from different ethnic backgrounds (eg, white husband, black wife; white Jewish family, Bangladeshi Moslem family, mixed race atheist/lapsed Jehovah Witness family) frankly make this hard to believe. That classic exam question 'Compare and contrast ...' simply glares from the pages.
The lengthy plot is ambitious in the way it attempts to draw the characters together, but I was unconvinced by the clumsy appearance of the white middle class Chalfen family and the extremely contrived ending to the novel. Even though I am a quick reader I found White Teeth rather long and struggled to complete it. I think a cut down version with fewer minor characters and a simpler plot would be more successful.
Overall, I preferred the first half of the book which relates the lives of hapless Archie Jones, sulky Samad Iqbal and their respective wives. As the focus of the narrative shifts on to their children, the style of language changes and the reader seems to be confronted with stereotypes of irritating hormonal teenagers.
For me, the main theme of White Teeth was the issue of individual and group identity, and this was explored very effectively in the many scenarios that unfolded throughout the novel.
White Teeth is worth a read, and makes interesting discussion matter, but I do not believe it to be worth the critical acclaim with which it has been accompanied.


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