Sunday, October 09, 2005

On Zadie


One of several unfair crticisms levelled at Zadie Smith at the time of the storming success of her first novel White Teeth (2002) was that the fuss was more about her, as a brainy beautiful black 20 something East Ender, than about the book.

So perhaps she is hitting back by titling her third novel On Beauty? At any rate it’s another sprawling, technically assured success, and the breathtakingly beautiful brainy young black girl who sashays through its pages does wreak a certain amount of havoc.

A large cast of (yes, largely black) characters and a complex plot, set mainly in academic Boston not inner London and all the better for it. And though long it’s a zippy and intensely enjoyable read. For this reader most of the characters perhaps lack that extra layer which makes them live on outside the page, but how many writers can achieve that? Only the very best, which Our Zadie is surely well on her way to becoming.

Thought this was the clear Booker winner until I read the Barryman, and perhaps for most judges it will indeed be the one.

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