Zadie Smith is one of the most beautiful writers I’ve ever come across. There, I’ve said it. I have shown my strong bias. Let fly the arguments for an impartial review! It is impossible to resist her charm, so why try?
Sometimes when I was reading White Teeth, I felt like I could describe the book as the lovechild of Salman Rushdie and J.K. Rowling. Zadie’s ‘magic’ here isn’t literal magic, but her ability to write characters like a motherfucker, across cultures. She writes an outspoken, old Bangladeshi-turned-English café waiter with equal candour as an awkward, teenage, Jamaican Jehovah’s witness. She does multiple viewpoints like its nobody’s business (except hers).
Her people are written so, so good, and she’s a strong enough writer to carry them throughout their whole lives. The families in White Teeth are written across generations and continents. I love how she writes the awkward social fallout from interactions between immigrant, mixed race, and middle-class-white families.
Her families – I could read them forever. I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted to read about their children, and their children’s children.
Everything feels honest. No one is above mockery, or empathy, in its own strange way.
Dialogue, charactercraft, epic story arcs, and her ability to write sections of prose like poetry, as well as her huge brain (she goes on these wonderfully relevant tangents about things like Sod’s Law, only to loop it back in to her narrative, like some kind of logic knitting master) are why you should read Zadie Smith.
Also, FUNNY. Did I mention she’s funny? (I don’t have a crush, I swear.)
I wish I had some sober, pragmatic commentary to share, since she is already widely lauded for her books, but I don’t. They are just amazing. Quick now, go read one.
ps. She also gives great advice. See Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing here.