BOOK REVIEW: The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith (Publisher: Hamish Hamilton 2013)

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From the award winning and best-selling author of White Teeth (2000) comes this novella, The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith.

The book competently manages to grapple with a number of thought provoking issues in a fairly limited amount of space, exploring issues of race, religion, culture and politics.

The focus of the story is on the main character, Fatou, a young African woman working as a nanny for a middle class Asian family in Willesden, North London. In short snippets Fatou tells of her life in Africa interwoven with her attempts to acclimatise to her new life in London. Along her journey Fatou meets and befriends a fellow young African, Andrew, in whom she finds a kindred spirit in a place where one is made to feel isolated with questions of culture and identity surfacing all the time.

At the heart of the story is the Embassy of Cambodia, a hub within the community which generates degrees of excitement and curiousity among the characters while they go about their busy lives.

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Zadie Smith

Smith writes beautifully, capturing the buzz and spirit of London while treating the issues of race, culture and identity with great subtlety and care.

A refreshing read which clearly demonstrates the writer’s skill at packing in an impressively diverse range of issues in such a minimal amount of pages, resulting in a definite triumph for the novella form.

© Copyright 2014, Darell J Philip

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