Back when it was first published, on the basis of a long-forgotten recommendation, I picked up a copy of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and then never got around to reading it. And so recently, reading an excellent essay she wrote about our political moment, I decided to remedy that neglect.

So this is one of those novels that follows a couple of families over multiple generations; it takes place in London, and the families in question include immigrants from Jamaica and Bangladesh, and their descendant from the 1970s to the 1990s. It’s got a lot of stuff crammed into it—genetically-engineered mice, the end of the world, World War 2—but the real thematic through-line is the challenges of life in a multi-cultural society.

Reading this now, it definitely reads like a literary novel written a young writer in the late ‘90s—it’s sprawling, full of comedy and tragedy mixed-up together; it’s sometimes absurd, sometimes grittily realistic, and sometimes implausible bordering on the supernatural. But it turns out that’s a thing I like, and this is a well-done example of the genre. Recommended.


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