I side with the critics who rate this one higher than Smith's White Teeth
, which caused such a sensation a few years back. Some of the same elements are successfully exploited here: biracial marriages with the consequent offspring who have their own issues, sexual politics, class distinctions, and culture clashes. Smith's clever dialogue (sometimes a bit too
clever and lengthy) and insidiously funny narration move the many subplots along nicely for the most part. Howard Belsey, an English art history professor in a snug American college community, finds himself deservedly losing his grip on his 30-year marriage, his three nearly grown children, and his career. To add to his woes, his academic arch-rival from across the pond is invited over for a guest lectureship at Howard's school. Adding delightful texture to all of this activity is the addition of a modern-day Howard's End
scenario. As with White Teeth
, edgy dialogue and situations would disqualify this from the "gentle reads" list.