Another book I read last year. Sadly wasn’t all that impressed with this one. Still yet to try out any more Zadie Smith. Perhaps ‘Swing Time’ shall be next. Another one I expected to turn up on the Baileys longlist this year, but didn’t. But hey, what kind of a judge am I? Not a psychic one, clearly.
2.5 stars. Still not entirely sure how I feel about this one. I honestly thought I was going to love this, that it would be a 5 star read. Whilst I did enjoy the overall narrative, thought the writing was very good, and want to read more from Zadie Smith, it came down to the fact that I didn’t just dislike most of the male characters – I kind of hated them (Apart from Archie… who was quite likeable occasionally.)
I much preferred hearing from the female characters, I got on with their voices more, I thought more effort went into their dialect and personas, and sadly there just wasn’t enough of them in the book for me to rate this any more than 3 stars. The way the male characters are written, it seems that the reader ought to be conflicted about them, but I just didn’t like them plain and simple, and wasn’t really interested in where their stories were going.
It’s a bit sad because so many of the theme’s that are raised in this are so important, and usually really intrigue me in concept – race, belonging, assimilation, multi-culturalism, religion, parental and societal conflict and influence… And I did enjoy the climax of this novel, how the different narratives wove together and where each character was left. But what I found about this novel as a whole, and I’ve seen this written in some other reviews also, is that the writing at times is kind of, for want of a better word – smug.
In effect I’m just undecided on whether these people are meant to come across so self-satisfied, or whether that’s just how I found them. I discovered that this was made into a TV series shortly after being published and would quite like to watch that and see if that changes my mind about any of the characters. I may report back if I do! For now, a ‘good’ book, but sadly I’m underwhelmed.