Why must every book written by an award winning author be compared to the most successful work in their canon? If we knew nothing of Zadie Smith, would this book be enjoyable on its own? Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this book is complex, original and required my careful attention throughout the story. Zadie Smith crafts characters whose motivations are opaque, who act in unpredictable and sometimes despicable ways. Perhaps it is her knack for diaglogue and transcribing dialect that captivates me, or just the beauty of the phrases. I enjoyed this book because I love Zadie Smith, and didn't realize until it fell into my hands that there was another work of hers that I had yet to discover. Now that I'm done, I am reminded of all the reasons I love her writing.
Beautifully written, the book charts an unpredictable path involving a half-Chinese man, a cat, a dog, an aging actress, Rabbi, insurance man, a lovely young woman with a heart problem and many more. All the characters are depicted with such warmth and compassion. They stay with you. One note: try to get the print version and NOT the Kindle version. The illustrations and other hand-written parts of the book do not come out well on Kindle. This is a book to be read on paper.
Zadie Smith has a knack for good writing. This book however contains so many digressions, many so opaque and idiosyncratic passages that the book reads in a choppy fashion. The miserable character Alex resolves nothing; his story becomes tedious, and Zadie obscures the text with the abovementioned digressions by writing cryptic asides that no longer keep this reader absorbed. Very disappointing. I did read it to the end.
Zadie Smith's sophomore book, the Autograph Man, deserves your reading attention. Londoner Alex-Li Tandem buys and sells autographs for a living. He is mired in the emptiness of his 30-something generation X values: movies, fame and symbolic artifacts divorced from experience. The reader wants to encourage Alex-Li as he clumsily attempts to seek something real.
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