White Teeth
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White Teeth

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  60,999 ratings  ·  3,612 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...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published July 11th 2000 by Random House (first published May 19th 1999)
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Ben
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...more
Leslie
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
Paul
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
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 India, Jamaica and Bangladesh are recreated here and not the imagined India, Jamaica and Bangladesh 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 ethos, the stench of their...more
RandomAnthony
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
Dan
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...more
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
Petra X
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.
Jonfaith
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...more
Jill
Jan 27, 2014 Jill rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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 the...more
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...more
Velvetink
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
Rowena
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.

Jasmine Star
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!
Leo
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...more
Jeniffer Almonte
A week after finishing this incredibly charming novel, it has settled in my mind as the image of a colorful tapestry similar to those I bought when I visited South America a few years ago. The tapestries depicted a scene with many different characters interacting in some sort of communal space, like a park or a town square. If you look closely you can make out all the little stories--people getting married, buying fruit, riding their bicycle, hanging up laundry etc. When you step back again, to...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...more
Lizzie
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...more
Chloe
It's no secret that I've been in a reading slump for the larger part of this year. The books I've been picking up have been mildly engaging at best, mind-numbingly dull at worst. It didn't matter what I tried- classics, contemporary fiction, sci-fi, noir, even non-fiction; all just seemed to land listlessly back on my stacks. With White Teeth, Zadie Smith's first award-winning novel, I think it is safe to say that the slump has finally passed.

Following several generations of two very different f...more
Alias Pending
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...more
Krys
My trusted source of recommendations most decidedly did NOT recommend this book, but I admit that I liked it far better than her.

That being said, despite the wonderfully poignant moments that expose the complications interracial relations in London, the book felt very scattered. Divided into sections, each portion of the novel primarily focuses on one individual in a small circle of relevant characters. The sections also (more or less) progress in chronological order over fifty years, so the lat...more
yana
so disappointing.
i started out with very high hopes, had been reading a lot of old and manly novels and was very much in the mood to read something by a contemporary female author. i was living in san francisco and kept seeing this book in the hands of strangers everywhere i went - on the BART, on the light rail, in the park, etc.. although initially turned off by the glowing reviews (i tend to be suspicious of books raving about the next new young protege who writes better than your mama at th...more
Carol
It is an ambitious book spanning generations and a variety of immigrant cultures that populate London. We found the book to be laugh out loud funny at points and thought the writing was very clever. The close friendship of Archie and Samad, which started in World War II, when they were both fighting for the Allies, was heart of the story. Archie was a typical British working class man and Samad was a Muslim Bengali from Pakistan. Archie married a daughter of a Jehovah's Witness from Jamaica and...more
Duncan
Dear Multi-generational immigrant fiction--
I have difficulty with you. I can understand the need for continuity, a sense of connection with the past, but all I can see with you is a target audience of middle aged white, (or any variation therein-twinkie, hoho, what have you) liberal women. Same goes for Middlesex, and Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes (not sorry I didn't finish you). Again, flash to mom killing these sorts of movies on the television. Flash again to mom laying generations of gu...more
Katherine M
White Teeth was a clear testament to Smith's skills as a writer, powerfully intertwining the stories of families from different ethnic communities. Smith's colorful descriptions make every character come alive in the story. As she did in On Beauty, she uses as social and political issues as the backdrop for her thoughtful family portraits. The most impressive aspect of Smith's writing is her ability to tackle difficult social issues while capturing the subtlety of complex interpersonal relations...more
thos.
i picked this up when i was living in manhattan, trying to keep up a trendy appearance on the subway. though it is one of a multitude of those cultural-fish-out-of-water stories that have grown so popular since about 2001, this one is supposed to have extra sass, because it is written by a british woman who is attractive (from what i've heard about her other book on beauty; i have never seen her).

anyway, this book became particularly annoying when she started talking about tank combat in ww2; i...more
Angelique
I finally finished this book...it felt like it took forever. For the life of me, I just couldn't force myself to care about the characters or their stories. It had a few moments and the way the author brought the lives of characters full circle was interesting, although definitely had that "planned out" feel.
Kata
Wow... Wow... Wow... Isn't it amazing when you a read a book and it knocks the wind out of you? You turn each page in a deep meditative state and the rest of the world just falls away. Hours pass by and you realize holy crapola I've been reading for how long? And you don't want to stop reading. That was exactly what happened to me with White Teeth. Smith packs in familial clashes, humor and the evolution of a migrant family in the UK.

The book opens with Archie a 47 year old man who is trying to...more
Judy

If literary fiction could always, or at least more often, be as good as this...well, I guess I would be an even more voracious reader than I am. I decided to read White Teeth before I jumped into NW because I read somewhere that both books are set in the same neighborhood of Northwest London. I have not felt as satisfied as I did while reading White Teeth in quite a while--well except for two weeks earlier when I read Telegraph Avenue.

In fact the two books have some parallels. Both throw togethe...more
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2522
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.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zadie_Smith

More about Zadie Smith...
On Beauty NW The Autograph Man Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays The Book of Other People

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“It's a funny thing about the modern world. You hear girls in the toilets of clubs saying, "Yeah, he fucked off and left me. He didn't love me. He just couldn't deal with love. He was too fucked up to know how to love me." Now, how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll---then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.” 331 likes
“If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made.” 76 likes
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