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White Teeth

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  80,733 Ratings  ·  4,570 Reviews
Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.

At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless vet
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published July 11th 2000 by Random House (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)

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Jul 15, 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
Paul Bryant
Nov 23, 2012 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
Dec 04, 2013 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
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
Dec 02, 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
Jul 28, 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
May 28, 2016 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


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
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
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
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.
Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X 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.
Debbie "DJ"
Jun 29, 2016 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
May 07, 2014 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
Mar 02, 2012 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.

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
Apr 16, 2016 Malia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zadie Smith has been hugely celebrated for this book and others, and WHITE TEETH is the first I have read by her. It is a multi-generational/multi-ethnic/multi-themed tome of a book, and though two months or so have passed since I finished it, I am still not quite certain how I feel about it.
One one hand, Smith is brilliant at sketching out characters. They are larger-than-life, and yet incredible human. The whole novel is permeated with a sense of heightened reality, that everything could be tr
Jan 27, 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
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
MJ Nicholls
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
Alias Pending
Sep 06, 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
Jasmine Star
Jun 07, 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!
Jun 23, 2012 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
Aug 12, 2016 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.
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
Apr 15, 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
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
Jason Alexander
Mar 30, 2016 Jason Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2016 sologdin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
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
Sep 04, 2015 MissSugarTown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I've always wanted to read a book with muslim characters, feeling that it is a culture that deserved to be presented in more books and White Teeth was perfect for that ! Zadie Smith is a talented author who has so many bright ideas and I feel like I have to read this book over and over again because it is so dense that you have to read it more than once to really appreciate it.
Don't get me wrong, this book is not about muslims, it is about cultural diversity in UK in the 20th century from 1907
Man, I've got to read something really good really soon. Not my favorite streak I'm having. I bought this paperback (it is a green one, I wish my cover was on GoodReads!) when it was brand new, and I've moved it with me a dozen times unread. So hopeful! Oh well.

There just wasn't any meaning for me. No one was moving, no development felt impactful, several were distasteful. Nothing I thought had a through-line did. I thought I saw the ending coming and it turned out to just be listless instead of
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Zadie Smith (born Sadie Smith October 27, 1975) is an English novelist. To date she has written four novels, and is widely regarded as one of England's most talented young authors; in 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors.

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“You are never stronger...than when you land on the other side of despair.” 1784 likes
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