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White Teeth

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  87,476 Ratings  ·  5,107 Reviews
Epic in scale and intimate in approach, White Teeth is an ambitious novel. Genetics, eugenics, gender, race, class and history are the book's themes but Zadie Smith is gifted with the wit and inventiveness to make these weighty ideas seem effortlessly light.

The story travels through Jamaica, Turkey, Bangladesh and India but ends up in a scrubby North London borough, home

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Paperback, 542 pages
Published November 30th 2000 by Penguin (first published May 19th 1999)
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Sue Well said--equal parts irritating and boring. In fact, I read this book putting aside my usual "caveat emptor" armor and gave it a fair chance to live…moreWell said--equal parts irritating and boring. In fact, I read this book putting aside my usual "caveat emptor" armor and gave it a fair chance to live up to its blurbs--and yet it was a "no go" almost from the very beginning. The one thing I will give it is that the scene with the suicide interruptus ended with an extremely funny one-liner that set the whole plot off and running. If only the whole book had delivered, I could see her being praised. It should have been a short story-- and then it would have been a good read.(less)
Sage I didn't think that the author was disdainful of most of the characters, with the exception of maybe Joyce Chalfen. My interpretation was that the…moreI didn't think that the author was disdainful of most of the characters, with the exception of maybe Joyce Chalfen. My interpretation was that the author was trying to portray characters with many flaws and eccentricities. Some of the characters are stupid, or scheming, or stuck in the past, but I could say the same of some members of my own family.
I've listened to audio books where the reader does effect the tone of the novel, so my guess is that's why you felt the characters were treated with disdain, but then maybe we just interpreted the story differently. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Ben
May 01, 2007 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
White Teeth is an expansive, detailed, and beautifully written attempt to encapsulate the social chaos that blossoms at the bridging of generational, national and sexual mindsets. It reminds me very much of the freeflowing histories written by Marquez and Allende, as well as Salman Rushdie's strange little one-off treatise on cultural alienation, Fury. (Samad, in particular, reminds me quite a bit of Fury's Malik Solanka.)

The book does many things well. Smith has a serious ear for dialogue and a
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Paul Bryant
Jun 10, 2009 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
One star? Of course this is not a one-star wretched ignominous failure, this is a mighty Dickensian epic about modern Britain. But not for me. It's a question of tone. I have now tried to read this one twice and each time I find I'm groaning quietly and grinding my teeth. Zadie Smith's omniscient narrator, alas for me, has an air of horrible smirkiness, like a friend who just can't help pointing out all the less than pleasant attributes of everyone else, all in the name of life-affirming humour, ...more
Leslie
Jul 29, 2007 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As many other reviewers have commented, I wanted to like this book more than I did. It approached greatness in many ways---the clever and often hilarious dialogue, the quirky characters, the creative family histories, the rich and convincing place descriptions, and so on. Despite the strengths of each of these parts, as a whole the book fell far short of greatness. It took me until the final pages to figure out what was missing for me: I did not genuinely care about most of the characters. I did ...more
Samadrita
There are parts of this book fully deserving of unadulterated love and veneration, worthy of 4 stars in the least. The fact that the real Indian, Jamaican and Bangladeshi diaspora are reproduced here and not the imagined Indian, Jamaican and Bangladeshi diaspora of white writers too reluctant to put in the requisite amount of research for getting the most inconsequential tidbits right has much to do with it. In addition, Zadie Smith succeeds in keenly evoking their history, language, cultural et ...more
Dan
Nov 14, 2007 Dan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book started bad for me and just got worse. I found the characters to be boring and two-dimensional. Actually, even worse, the author tried to build up the characters in most cases (though doing a poor job, I'd say), but then later reduced their roles to caricatures. So even those I was inclined to like wound up irritating me every time they opened their mouths.

Further, Smith's style is all over the place. At times I found it indulgent and pretentious, others fawningly resembling other auth
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Darwin8u
Jul 31, 2011 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“...the wicked lie, that the past is always tense and the future, perfect.”
― Zadie Smith, White Teeth

description

I planned on writing my full review of this book a couple days after I read it in October of 2014. I was afraid, however, if I wrote it immediately it would be too sappy, too indulgent, too full of praise. I would probably just go on and on and you all might think I was in love or something. So, like I am want, I put the review off -- meaning to get to it -- and here I am finally writing about t
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RandomAnthony
Jul 17, 2011 RandomAnthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm about a decade late to Zadie Smith's White Teeth, one of those books friends recommended or I picked up at the library then put back and moved on to a different title. My reticence to read the novel revolved around the plethora of book-clubby texts that could best be classified as “somewhat patronizing novels about other cultures featuring triumph in the face of great poverty and hardship.” I hate these books. But White Teeth turns out be an example of where those novels fail and a sun-surfa ...more
Barry Pierce
Oh Zadie Smith be still my beating heart! I devoured this fabulous novel. Smith is truly a master of plot and her ability to capture the voices of each individual character is inspirational. Never before have I read a novel which such a rich and diverse dramatis personae. I fear that this review is going to become a list of superlatives so I'll quell it here by saying, I loved this and I need to read more Smith now.
Stephen M
So my computer has been out of commission for the past few weeks and that partly explains my absence from goodreads (insert excuse about being busy, being outdoors in the summer, etc). I recently joined up with all the cool kids and dropped a hundred dollars for an iPhone and I've been trying to make do with the limitations imposed by the less than satisfactory goodreads app which I guess is better than trying to navigate the site through safari on the phone but alas, I digress. Because the reas ...more
Aubrey
There need to be more books like this in the world. Little bit cocky, little bit sharp, written within my lifetime by someone with little to no representation in the halls of esteemed literature by means of race and gender and what have you and does not give a flying fuck about it. The setting may be the well worn island of merry old 20th century England for the most part, but the reality is that of the 21st. Smorgasbord where white men get as proper a representation in the wider plain of realit ...more
Debbie "DJ"
Oct 20, 2015 Debbie "DJ" rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more I think about this book, the more I marvel at what Zadie Smith was able to create through it. I seriously almost didn't make it through this read, and it is only in the looking back that I see just how brilliant it is. Smith starts with two characters, then links character after character to them.

It all starts with two men lost in WWI, having no real role in it, and discover it has ended without their knowledge. They capture a war architect after the war and invent stories in some atte
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Petra Eggs
Oct 01, 2011 Petra Eggs rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Just because everyone says it's good doesn't make it readable. Just because it has an 'ethnic' plot doesn't make it realistic. Just because it's about ordinary people doesn't make it believeable.

And just because I read it only a couple of months ago doesn't make it memorable.

Three stars because it might have been that good, I've forgotten all but the general gist of the book.
Franco  Santos
Jan 11, 2017 Franco Santos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
En White Teeth, Zadie Smith trata con agudeza temas tan sensibles y discutidos como la inmigración y el nacionalismo. Racismo, crisis de identidad basadas en historia y tradición, lealtad hacia ideales tanto religiosos como humanos, fundamentalismo y un profundo y marcado anhelo de hallar un hogar en un mundo siempre ajeno a uno mismo son algunos de los elementos que componen White Teeth.

White Teeth empieza con la historia de dos familias de inmigrantes conviviendo en Inglaterra con culturas y
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Rowena
Dec 23, 2011 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A perfect book to re-read! This is a very funny book chronicling the lives of immigrants in the United Kingdom and focuses on issues such as children of immigrants forming new, collective identities due to identity crisis, the whole question about who is really English and problems in a multicultural community, such as which religious holidays schools should celebrate and so on. It's a very entertaining read.

Jonfaith
May 18, 2010 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These days, it feels to me like you make a devil's pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started... but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers - who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained.

Despite everything subsequent in Zadie's m
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Margitte
Phew, I was exhausted after finishing this book.
Faith, race, gender, history, and culture in three North London families are turned upside down, questioned, dissected and turned into a tragic comedy by Zadie Smith.

Samad Iqbal and his wife Alsana, the original Benghali immigrants, who often sort their differences out in some feisty backyard wrestling matches while their two twin sons, Magid and Millat, the second generation immigrants, run haywire in their confusion about being British as their m
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Wanda
If you have been (or your parent has been) an immigrant, White Teeth will probably speak to you. My father was the first member of his family born in Canada. He desperately felt the need to fit in, to be Canadian. As a result, when his parents spoke in Danish at home, he always answered them in English. In later life, he could understand Danish, but not speak it, a situation which was sometimes frustrating when dealing with relatives who only spoke Danish. My grandfather came to Canada first, al ...more
Teresa
Jan 22, 2017 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zadie Smith, filha de uma jamaicana e um inglês, nasceu em Londres em 1975. O seu primeiro romance é considerado pela revista Time um dos 100 melhores romances ingleses escritos entre 1923 e 2005.

Dentes Brancos relata a história de três famílias que vivem em Londres, durante o período de tempo entre 1974 e 1992:
Os Jones - Archie Jones é um inglês (ex-suicida) de meia idade casado com Clara, uma jovem jamaicana cuja mãe é testemunha de Jeová e que tem como único sonho manter-se viva para assisti
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MJ Nicholls
Jan 09, 2011 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing
The novel that shot Zadie (née Sadie) into the literary stratosphere in 2001. A decade down the line and this is still a dazzling performance. A mordant look at first-generation Bengali immigrants and the next generation's confused Anglicization and alienation. A scalpel-sharp realist novel with teeth sharper than a puma. Plus (near the end) a witty debate on religion v. science. And so much more besides.

Not head-over-heels in love with that ending. Reads more like an intellectual copout than a
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Jill
Jan 22, 2014 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jill by: Kinga
Shelves: kinga-forced-me

2.5 stars

The thing I love about these books that Kinga recommends for me in her ongoing - and so far hopelessly futile attempt - to educate me on finer literature outside my usual genre of formulaic, lowbrow romance novels, is Kinga herself.

I feel like the care and guidance under her hand as akin to a big sister pointing out the wonders of a large, diverse, cosmopolitan city to the younger, countrified sister. And the fact that I don't see what she sees in these novels, doesn't bother me in th
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Jasmine Star
Apr 19, 2008 Jasmine Star rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, at times i was laughing out loud. There are just so many layers to her wriing...she writes plainly, but intelligently, and it is full of humor and spunk, Her cultural isights are amazing...i swore she was talking about me at one point...and it was nice the way she included smidgens of dialect and superstition from 3 different cultures, with such depth! I would totally reccommend this book. Josh you were so right!
Silvanna
Jun 19, 2015 Silvanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whoosh!!! What a story! Started off well but sagged a bit in the middle, but 500-0dd pages later....wonderful! So pleased I persevered.
Alias Pending
Aug 03, 2013 Alias Pending rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Short: The only thing this book hates more than its characters is you, the reader.

The long form presentation: Lets boil down the premise and get it out of the way. This book is about nature vs nurture. Don't worry about that theme too much, because this book hates its theme. It can't be bothered to come to a logical or even an irrational conclusion about that theme. It hates its theme nearly as much as it hates you, the reader. Didn't I just say that? Am I being redundant?

Right, there is to
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Sentimental Surrealist
Listicles are where it's at these days and I want to adapt my writing for today's short attention-span crowd. So with that in mind, here are ten and a half quick things you need to know about Zadie Smith. Maybe I'll score a job will Buzzfeed, where I'll compile such delightful articles as "twelve facts about bunions" and "seven beloved corporate mascots that have appeared in pornography" that we can all chortle at over our coffee.

1. Her dialog is incredible, just incredible. It's like she wande
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Jason M Alexander
Tangled intimacy on an expansive scale. Cultural dissection and exploration.

Involved. At least that was the right word, Alsana reflected, as she liftes her foot off the pedal, and let the wheel spin a few times alone before coming to a squeaky halt. Sometimes, here in England, especially at bus-stops and on the daytime soaps, you heard people say “We’re involved with each other,” as if this were a most wonderful state to be in, as if one chose it and enjoyed it. Alsana never thought of it that w
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Leo
Feb 10, 2011 Leo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bestest
So it's not perfect. I understand that.
But I can't remember the last time a book this long has thoroughly captivated me, entertained me and struck a subtle chord in me all at the same time.
A lot of other reviews have valid points: all the characters do diminish into caricatures at certain points (but don't we as well?), the last hundred pages or so were a bit tiring, and the ending felt a bit anticlimactic and rushed.
My favorite aspect of this novel was Smith's keen eye for turning entirely seri
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Nelson Zagalo
“Dentes Brancos” é uma obra poderosa, carregada de significados impossíveis de decifrar numa única passagem. É uma obra imensamente rica porque pede não mera reflexão mas diálogo em busca dos significados pretendidos e dos que cada um de nós leu, interpretou e sentiu. Mas não sendo eu grande fã de simbolismos, ou melhor das ultrainterpretações a que dão azo, tenho de dizer que aquilo que primeiro me seduziu em Zadie Smith foi a sua escrita, que Quinn muito bem definiu no New York Times como: “ex ...more
Velvetink
Mar 09, 2011 Velvetink rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Such a hard slog to get through but you know me, I hate not finishing something. Like a certain Paul Bryant I was grinding my teeth throughout - although quite often for different reasons....It had a few quotes I found worthwhile underlining, but nothing that sticks in my mind right now that I could tell you. kind of ho hum and reminds me of some whacky 70's books where anything and everything is thrown in to make it exciting. Didn't work for me, found so much of it tedious and I jumped whole pa ...more
Book Riot Community
Is there a name for the very specific emotional combination of relief, satisfaction, and joy that occurs when a piece of art that has been massively hyped lives up to that hype entirely? If there isn’t, I propose we call it the Zadie Smith effect. I missed White Teeth when it came out originally and have spent the last couple of years almost afraid to read it, because I thought nothing could be as good as people said White Teeth was. I needn’t have been. White Teeth is rich and sprawling and war ...more
sologdin
Wood pooh-poohed this text, inaptly, as it turns out, as hysterical realism. Am not sure if Wood was interested in the bad gender politics of that particular generic designation, but the gross amalgamation of this text with Pynchon, Rushdie, Delillo, DFW does not make much sense. (It’s most similar to Delillo, I think, of the usual suspects listed therein.)

Master figure is of course the odontic, which is most plainly significant to the extent that a character might be “from somewhere. She has r
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Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and NW, as well as a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. Swing Time is her fifth novel.

Visit www.zadiesmith.com for more information.
More about Zadie Smith...

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“You are never stronger...than when you land on the other side of despair.” 1801 likes
“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.” 1753 likes
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