43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
A weak novel which appears stylish,
By A Customer
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
This really is an extraordinary novel, in that it has achieved such a huge level of hype, critical acclaim and has divided amazon readers into opposing love it / hate it camps.
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. She has courage and control; she has managed to write a book that somehow looks good, that reads as if it's a classic, that reads as if it's actually saying a lot, when it doesn't. It's partly due to the skill of her prose, partly because of the author's 'serious' young-Rushdie style image, though I actually think the book owes a greater debt to Amis than Rushdie.
On the other hand, books I prefered include 'CHocolat' by Joanne Harris, also nominated for last year's Whitbread, which works in reverse - a literary novel which appears light-hearted (particularly with the awful sugary film adaptation) but which actually explores some fascinating themes, such as motherhood, religion, repression - some themes which Zadie touched on but never manages to explore with any depth in the way Harris does.