Socialist Worker

Colour and whitewash

Issue No. 1691


Colour and whitewash

By Rachel Aldred

REVIEWERS have heaped praise on Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth. This young black novelist charts a changing Britain through the lives and pasts of a group of west Londoners. The book sparkles with comic insight, moving backwards and forwards in time to encompass diverse characters. It examines how people react to a society that is increasingly multicultural but still marginalises, patronises and rejects them. One chapter shows the teenage, mixed race Irie Jones destroying her Afro and buying an Asian woman's hair in a desperate attempt to become more conventionally attractive.

The dialogue is sharp and funny. The middle class Chalfens' attempts to "save" Irie and her friends are both hilarious and scary. White Teeth is both a serious book about class, gender and ethnicity in Britain today, and a very entertaining read. It portrays a Britain we can relate to, not Blair's whitewashed "Cool Britannia".

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Hamish Hamilton �12.99.

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Article information

Sat 8 Apr 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1691
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