Author: Zadie Smith
Links: Indiebound |Goodreads
Summary: This lacked the depth, interesting human dynamics, and complex themes of Smith’s first book.
I’ve read Zadie Smith’s White Teeth twice and both times, I was blown away by her writing style. I was hooked from the beginning by the complicated family and friend dynamics she portrayed. The multilayered prose was as impressive as her exploration of significant themes, such as immigration and racism. In this sophomore novel about Alex-Li, a man who sells celebrity autographs, all of those strengths were missing. The plot never grabbed me. Except for a brief period in the middle of the book, nothing interesting happened. Alex-Li has a complicated romantic life and obsesses over the autograph of a minor forties actress. And that’s really all I have to say about the plot. There were still flashes of brilliance in the writing – clever metaphors or detailed descriptions that gave a scene real texture – but overall, the writing didn’t impress me much either.
In theory, the author is exploring the meaning of fame and whether authenticity matters if you can’t tell something is a fake. Unfortunately, engagement with these topics felt purely superficial. As I’ve read her books and some reviews, I do have the impression that Smith sometimes references classic literature. It’s certainly possible that she’s making references I’m not familiar with here. There are also patterns to chapter titles that seemed like they were trying to be clever, but which didn’t make much sense to me. So, it is possible that rather than her novel being shallow, I’m missing the depths. However, based on the reviews of this book compared to her other books, I’m not the only one who was disappointed and bored while reading it.