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White Teeth

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At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith. Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.

448 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2000

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About the author

Zadie Smith

104 books13k followers
Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time, as well as two collections of essays, Changing My Mind and Feel Free. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Visit www.zadiesmith.com for more information.

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5 stars
38,944 (26%)
4 stars
55,717 (38%)
3 stars
36,134 (24%)
2 stars
11,035 (7%)
1 star
3,845 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,095 reviews
Profile Image for Ben.
184 reviews219 followers
July 20, 2020
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.)

Smith does many things well. She has a serious ear for dialogue and accent, she knows how to manage the flow and pacing of a story, and she's quite skilled at employing large concepts (genetic manipulation, immigrant psychology, the concept of history itself) both as fact and as metaphor. Her cast of characters is varied and nearly every one of them comes off as a fully flesh and blood human being. However, it's in terms of these personalities that I feel she makes her biggest misstep.

Zadie Smith is what I'd call an Ironist. I don't mean this in the Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Jon Stewart sense. I don't mean that she's a comedian. I mean it in the sense that the territory she stands on--that her narrator in White Teeth stands on--is one whose boundaries are staked out in terms of what she is not. My friend Brandon commented below that Smith shows "blatant contempt for every character except the one who is clearly based on the author." While I understand where he's coming from, I don't think it's contempt per se. On the contrary, I think Smith has deep feelings for most of her characters--even the more despicable ones like Crispin and Millat. I think that what Brandon interprets as contempt is something far more ambiguous: let's call it detached superiority.

The Ironist defines herself through the process of over-defining others. Every character in this novel is over-defined, over-drawn. While this provides us with a great, at times excruciating level of detail, it also paints each of them into a kind of cage wherein all of their actions are predictable. Each of them has a sort of "final vocabulary" (cf. Rorty) that defines the limits of what they might do or say--the doctrines of Islam and the Watchtower Society, of PETA or clinical science. In the worst cases, their adherence to these vocabularies allows Smith to slip them into easy "types" (see: Mr. Topps, Crispin, Joshua, Marcus, the various members of FATE). Smith creates her authorial/narrative identity--what's called a metastable personality--by passively proving that she is not limited by such a final vocabulary, and that in escaping their confines she has a broader, more comprehensive view of the social workings of the world. This is, generally speaking, the goal of any omniscient narrator, but the way that Smith goes about writing this one in particular imparts a certain sense of smugness (the parenthetical asides to the reader, the knowing winks, the jokes at the expense of easy targets) that isn't always present.

The metastable personality is the natural reaction to uncomfortability with final vocabularies, but it itself is of course just as self-defining as any of them (albeit in the opposite direction). It instinctually yearns for instability, but prefers to admire chaos from afar rather than living in it. The metastable personality knows that in order to maintain coherence it must remain stable, and that the only way to remain stable is to balance itself on the disbelief of all known final vocabularies. Smith writes off worldview after worldview, but is of course unable to articulate her own because her own is simply the absence of adherence to any such worldview.

This isn't so much a criticism of Smith's work as it is an explanation of why it is the way it is, and why it can be read as contempt.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,162 reviews9,031 followers
November 24, 2012
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, allegedly, but gradually wearing you down. Didn't anyone get sick of this apart from me? I hear this kind of humour in current British comedy all the time. When it's cranked up to the max and runs at 200 miles an hour, it's great, as in the recent political satire movie In the Loop (recommended) but when it's on a low leisurely level, as in a big sprawling novel, it just gets on my wick. It might be a symptom of the cultural cringe I discuss a propos The Age of Elegance - British writers can no longer take their country and culture that seriously, they feel somehow that it's just not very cool and so their default attitude is self-deprecation. You don't get this in big novels about modern America - "American Pastoral", "We Were the Mulvaneys" and "The Corrections" and "Freedom" spring to mind. Franzen, for instance, uses humour all the time and excoriates large areas of American society, but there's no perpetual undermining of his own characters for the sake of inexpensive laughs.
My head says I should like White Teeth but my heart says Zadie Smith was a literary ad-man's dream come true.
For a good, funny book about multicultural Britain, see "The Buddha of Suburbia" by Hanif Kureishi.
For a great review of White Teeth which eloquently puts the case against, whilst trying not to, see Ben's review here

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....
Profile Image for Leslie.
90 reviews34 followers
December 4, 2013
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 not feel sympathy for them, or root for them, or have my own ideas of how I hoped things would turn out.

This is likely due to the many, many story lines at play in the novel (story lines that span a hundred years in some cases). But it still felt unacceptable to me that the book begins with one of the most intimate moments a person can experience (though it is treated with humor) and closes with an equally major event in the life of that same character, yet we hardly KNOW this character. He is a central presence on page one and the final page, but he is lost in between. While I laughed at Joyce Chalfen, Alsana, Abdul-Mickey, Magid, Hortense, and a dozen more amusing and creative characters, I felt no emotional connection to them at all. The biggest disappointment perhaps was the disappearance of Clara's voice from the pages. They remained, though entertaining, very flat to me. The only character I sincerely rooted for and felt drawn to was Irie Jones. Her story alone, though it does not emerge until the second half of the book, made the novel worth reading to me.

I was intrigued enough by Zadie Smith's writing to give her other works a try, but I closed the book last night with a definite sense of a letdown.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,648 followers
May 28, 2016
“...the wicked lie, that the past is always tense and the future, perfect.”
― Zadie Smith, White Teeth

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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 the book almost two years after I first read it. I don't know if the delay points more towards my sometimes best laid plans falling and failing, or my anal need to complete the circle and check things off lists.

Seriously, the book was fantastic. I loved it. It was a big, hairy, kinky, ambitious first novel and Zadie Smith pulled it off. I'm not sure why I'm reading so many novels (McTeague) concerned with dentistry and teeth lately. A bit weird. Anyway, enough!

I'm glad I waited, however, because Zadie Smith seems to posses for England that same fresh breath that Lin-Manuel Miranda exhibits with his musical Hamilton. Sometimes, a place is best described by immigrants to that place. Sometimes, the change that happens to a city or nation because of immigrants is hard to measure in the first couple years. Just look at London now. London has elected its first Muslim mayor. This has more to do with some of the huge demographic changes than with a super-multiculturalism in London, but it still isn't nothing.

I remember reading a short article in the Guardian a while back that pointed out that in regards to Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh, “the three groups share many areas in common, but the Punjabi Sikhs in Southall and southeast London, the Gujarati Hindus in northwest London, and the Bengali Muslims in Tower Hamlets stand out most of all.” (The Guardian). I loved realizing the London of Pepys, Dickens and Shakespeare was now a completely different place. It was a place where the colonized were becoming the colonizers. It was a giant geography of Karma, and not in a bad way. We often never fully grasp the bad and the good and the unintended of our decisions and policies. I'm pretty damn sure Queen Victoria and those who advised her and followed her -- NEVER saw this coming as they began the British Raj.

description
I love how 'White Teeth' swirls and dances and dervishes with ideas of race, identity, and religious antagonism. The book is a fiction, of course, but the competition between ethnicities, even while the white majority loses their shit is not fiction. Even though 'White Teeth' debuted as the 21st century was dawning, it painted a fictionalized but very real novel about the struggles America, England, and Europe are going through right now. Think of Europe and America's reaction to Muslim refugees, the hostility of the right to Barack Obama citizenship and race, the fear that drives the radical right agendas from Hungary to Norway as Western Europe and Western Civilization loses (gradually) their majority lock on political and demographic power. When the mayor of London and the President of the United States of America wouldn't have been allowed to eat in the same high-brow London and New York clubs as presidents and mayors did 60-years-ago, it is kinda amazing to see how far we've come. However, it is also humbling when you read blogs, comments, and hell, just watch Trump on Fox News. There is a certain shaded infinity of how far we still need to go.

Anyway, back to 'White Teeth'. The brilliance of this book is Zadie Smith addresses all of this with humor, beauty and narrative magic. She avoids the twin traps of triviality and preachiness. She spins a fascinating yarn that entertains while pushing the reader to grapple with the realities that were faced by Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal in 1945, and the realities we faced when Obama was elected, and the problems we all currently face.

Fundamentally, I believe, things become a lot simpler when we can view people as individuals. Viewing Zadie Smith as an individual it is easy to see her brilliance, her potential, and her ability from her first book to play with the big boys of English fiction. The future is already here and Zadie Smith is just waiting for history and the rest of us to catch up.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,101 reviews1,592 followers
April 17, 2022
REALISMO ISTERICO


Incroci culturali, meticciato…

Non so come mai a distanza di quasi vent’anni dall’apparizione di questo esordio letterario ho avvertito il bisogno di affrontarlo: cos’è che mi ha spinto a prenderlo in mano ora mi sfugge.
Però adesso mi è molto chiaro come mai non l’ho fatto prima.

E non credo che lo rifarò: ritengo che la mia personale conoscenza di Zadie Smith si possa fermare qui, va bene così a entrambi, funziona meglio così sia per me che per lei. Lei ha tanti lettori e riconoscimenti e apprezzamenti, non necessita di averne uno in più. E io so che lei non è my cup of tea: so che pur apprezzandola, non la godo, non mi diverto a leggerla.



In queste pagine ho trovato talento e scrittura sapiente, semplice ma elaborata allo stesso tempo: che a 24/25 anni Zadie Smith fosse già in grado di scrivere così mi spiega come mai sin da subito è stata cliente del padre (madre) di tutti gli agenti, Andrew Wylie (uno che si definisce sciacallo, e che rappresenta anche Bob Dylan).

Quello che ho trovato, e non ho apprezzato, e mi ha rallentato la lettura rendendola faticosa e non particolarmente gradita, è l’eccesso di storie e di storytelling, che si traduce in un eccesso di lunghezza (tante, troppe pagine).
È l’impressione che ogni rivolo narrativo possa trasformarsi in fiume, o generare altri mille rivoli, il cerchio sembra non chiudersi mai. E nel frattempo, si affastellano fatti e storie, ma i personaggi non sviluppano, non crescono.


Il cast inglese dell’adattamento teatrale.

È la ricerca insistita martellante del comico più che dell’ironico.
È la rappresentazione di personaggi che più che caratteri sono caricature.
È un generale senso di eccesso, di esagerazione, di mancanza di misura, che spinge Smith a cercare il paradosso (eccentrico?) e forse perfino il grottesco.
È una generale assenza, per me, di verità, di realtà, Smith trasforma in un’entità iper-reale anche un hamburger.
La sensazione insistita d’essere all’interno di un fumetto senza disegni.

E credo che molto di questa scarsa attrazione per la sua letteratura e della mia frustrazione si spiega anche dalle dichiarazioni che Smith ama rilasciare, per esempio quando dice che non è compito dello scrittore, quindi certo non il suo, quello di dire al lettore come qualcuno sente e reagisce a qualcosa, ma piuttosto il compito di uno scrittore è spiegare come funziona il mondo.


Un momento della commedia.

Un critico inglese che ho cominciato ad apprezzare e seguire quando è stato ‘adottato’ in USA, cioè quando s’è trasferito a vivere e lavorare oltre oceano passando dal Guardian e dal New Republic al New Yorker, James Wood, definisce la letteratura di Zadie Smith e di alcuni suoi colleghi (Rushdie, DeLillo, Pynchon, Foster Wallace) ‘realismo isterico’.
E il suo pezzo dedicato a questo romanzo è intitolato “Umano, tutto troppo non umano”.
Mi sembra che colga in pieno il mio sentire.

Profile Image for Petra X played the long game - and won.
2,383 reviews33.9k followers
May 6, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Ilenia Zodiaco.
260 reviews12.6k followers
February 13, 2022
Un formidabile romanzo d’esordio che descrive la società multiculturale contemporanea con quello che James Wood ha chiamato “realismo isterico”: la prosa caleidoscopica, esagerata ed esilarante si contrappone all’estrema minuzia e alla concretezza con cui si espongono i fatti storici, i nomi dei quartieri di Londra, la complessità del contesto socio-politico e culturale.

Queste 554 pagine ci fanno viaggiare nel tempo e nello spazio: si inizia a metà degli anni 70 per poi risalire ancora più indietro, alla Seconda Guerra Mondiale, ci catapulta poi negli anni 80 e infine una corsa impazzita fino agli anni 90. Ambientato in una Londra globalizzata, affollato crocevia di mille destini, perfetta per un romanzo globale che fa ribollire il suo melting pot narrativo.
Inglesi, giamaicani, bengalesi. Proletari, sottoproletari, borghesi. Adolescenti, adulti, vecchi. Uomini, donne, topi del futuro. Atei, fondamentalisti religiosi, testimoni di Geova, musulmani, animalisti. Un continuo scontro e una continua compenetrazione tra credenze opposte, tra culture diverse, tra idee inconciliabili. Gli esseri umani di Zadie Smith crescono come i denti all’interno della nostra bocca: costretti a stare vicini in uno spazio limitato, non tutti vengono su dritti e in fila, alcuni prendono posizioni diverse, altri saranno inevitabilmente storti. I denti sono come i figli, lo sviluppo è imprevedibile. Soprattutto quando – come i protagonisti di questo romanzo multigenerazionale – si ritrovano in un conflitto identitario perenne tra l’etnia della loro famiglia d’origine e la cultura della società “acquisita” in cui sono nati e cresciuti.

Attraverso la satira, Zadie Smith racconta, come nei migliori romanzi di Franzen, l’arrovellarsi interiore di padri e figli, di madri e figlie, divisi tra la tradizione e il desiderio di cambiare, tra ciò che è giusto e morale e ciò che corrompe lo spirito. Chi ha paura di perdersi, prova a ritornare alle sue radici. Chi non ha mai capito nemmeno quali fossero le sue radici, prova ad adattarsi, mimetizzandosi al caos della contemporaneità. Altri, fanno resistenza, negano tutto ciò che è diverso da loro e si arroccano in posizioni estreme. Altri ancora, semplicemente, diventano qualcun altro. Questo continuo incontro e scontro tra classi sociali e posizioni economiche diverse, tra colti e incolti, tra parenti e amici, tra famiglie ereditate e famiglie acquisite, tra scienza e fede, tra determinismo e casualità, tutto questo fiume in piena miracolosamente – nonostante un finale tremolante e la quantità di temi portati in tavola – riesce a trovare un equilibrio perfetto e a regalarci un banchetto sontuoso.

La prosa di Zadie Smith è una caramella che si scioglie in bocca e fa esplodere una cuccagna di sapori. L’ibridazione stilistica di Denti bianchi fa sfilare davanti al lettore, capitolo dopo capitolo, la caricatura satirica accanto al dramma, il genere della saga familiare con quello meta-storico, fino alla fantascienza. La scelta di macedonizzare il romanzo per temi e stile è il prodotto della lettura di certi maestri postmodernisti. In primis, Salman Rushdie. Sia per un certo gusto nel raccontare la storia dell’India, che fa capolino tra le pagine di Denti bianchi, ma soprattutto per l’uso vivacissimo delle digressioni, della lingua mescolata e per l’ironia funambolica. C’è anche qualcosa di Pynchon nell’uso umoristico delle sigle e degli acronimi (KEVIN e FATE). Ma soprattutto c’è la voce grintosa di Zadie Smith che pungola, commuove, azzarda.

È per merito di questa voce irresistibile da Sirena per cui le perdoniamo le troppe turbolenze narrative e le molte decisioni no-sense di personaggi mutevoli che portano la trama su un livello iperbolico nei capitoli finali. Ti perdoniamo, Zadie. Perché ti amiamo.
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,466 followers
September 5, 2014
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 ethos, the stench of their festering old wounds inflicted by an undo-able past, and their bizarre hypocrisies making the leap across land and oceanic borders into alien territory, exempted from being dissected by the scalpel of 'western reason' in the name of minority rights.

There's the undeniable truth of centuries of conditioned servility, hatred of the power which established the ground rules of the abusive relationship called colonialism, and the unfathomable responsibility of bearing the burden of yesterday.
"[] they can't help but reenaact the dash they once made from one land to another, from one faith to another, from one brown mother country in to the pale, freckled arms of an imperial sovereign."

There's the Bengaliness of the family to be religiously guarded against the sallies of Western liberalism; imminent dilution of the much treasured Bengali DNA in the gene pool staved off at all costs. And there's war to be waged on foreign territory - for another inch of land, another notch up on the dignity scale, for yet another step of the socioeconomic ladder. Whenever stung by the prick of casual racism, whenever thwarted, they will go back to their institutionalized tendencies of seeing things in black and white and studiously avoiding mentions of a gray area; they won't think twice before disregarding their favorite Gandhiji's famed 'An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.' They will seek out the greener pastures of first world optimism but resist synthesis, tugging at the roots of old grudges again and again so that the present and the now can be drawn and quartered on the altar of history.
"And then you begin to give up the very idea of belonging. Suddenly this thing, this belonging, it seems like some long, dirty lie...and I begin to believe that birthplaces are accidents, that everything is an accident."

But then there are the 'just-roll-with-it' parts which deserve no more than 2 stars - the cocksure and smug tone in which the narrator recounts this multi-generational saga of families caught in the chaos of modern day materialism vs heritage, the unrealistic, often two-dimensional characterization and the zany Britcom feel to the episodes which warrants a suspension of disbelief and gives rise to the nagging suspicion that this was written with the idea of a film or tv series adaptation in mind.

As much as Smith's light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, clever mockery of roots and righteous reliance on said roots for existential validation is absolutely legitimate and spot-on, it is awfully disingenuous to think roots can and should be so easily discarded. Assimilation requires time and the immigration conundrum will never be felt as acutely by second generation immigrants (like Smith herself) as by their progenitors. This is where I prefer Jhumpa Lahiri's narrative voice (her later works) over Smith's - no inflection of moral and intellectual superiority, no pronouncing of judgement on flawed choices but a restrained attempt at humanizing all characters.

Since the 4-star and 2-star ratings are equally bona fide in my eyes, a 3-star it is. More so because I can't remember the last time a woman writer of contemporary literary fiction made me laugh so hard.
Profile Image for Dan.
26 reviews14 followers
December 3, 2007
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 authors, and the style would sometimes change abruptly from one paragraph to the next.

I find what what often at least partially redeems books like this is an interesting plot. Not so in White Teeth! There's no real story arc to hold the book together. The plot kind of twisted along for a while and I couldn't really tell where it was going. Then it ends in this bizarre attempt to draw all of the characters and threads together which totally fails as a climax. I would have been more irritated about this particular point but I was so happy I was done with the book, I was inclined to forgive it more than was deserved.

I truly don't understand what all the hype was over this book. There is lots I can forgive especially in a first novel, but there wasn't nearly enough here to convince me that Smith is a great writer who just needs some time to come into her own. There were a few interesting ideas and notions, but they were isolated and swamped by a thousand other boring ones, not to mention cliches, unclever witticisms, and tired plot devices.

I could go on, but I rather forget I ever read this! Gah!
Profile Image for Baba.
3,504 reviews732 followers
November 14, 2022
Hit me between the eyes and then some! A saga about three families from three different cultures over three generations. It's primarily about the way that the past can come back when you least suspect it. Also overall it is a life-affirming book, not only for humanity but for fiction itself. This is the deserving legacy of the great works written before this.
The ~"one of the most talked about fictional debuts ever review quotes - is spot on!

Just wow. This is the amazing debut of Zadie Smith, and for me it is an instant modern classic. The word 'genius' springs to mind. Outstanding. A very strong Four star 9.5 out of 12 read. Sorry, but I had to drop this GIF for a review of White Teeth :)

2010 read
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,099 reviews44.1k followers
December 6, 2018
The last time I read a book with this much narrative confidence, power and authority was back in January when I tackled Midnight’s Children.

It's rare that a book comes with a voice this strong. Like Rushdie’s novel, Smith creates a present that is pervaded by the past. Her characters are very aware of their ancestry, and they really struggle to reconcile with it in the modern world. Are they Indians? Are they British? Are they black or white? Or are they a little bit of everything? Because of their duality, they struggle to find themselves in the modern metropolis. They don’t quite know who they should be, so they cling to and project ideas they are far removed from. And it’s all a little tragic, to see such confusion.

“...They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow.”

Every character Smith has conjured up here could be someone you’d encounter in real life; they are all very real people and they are faced with some very real problems. However, the issue I had with the novel is that we simply do not stay with them for long enough for them to develop. We glimpse them, nothing more. I’d even hesitate to actually call this a novel; it’s more like four loosely related novellas slapped together with a very small amount of glue to bind them. It’s close on collapsing.

As such, this doesn’t have a plot per say. It’s more like four separate character studies. And it does work to an extent; it captures a large part of the contemporary space, but as a novel it feels fragmented with little to no cohesion. Some sections were better than others, with characters who were more flawed and interesting to read about. To make this a little clearer, I feel like I need to write four seperate reviews in order to talk about his book properly and rate each section differently.

I’m not going to do that, but I hope you get my point; it’s quite a difficult book to talk about because it doesn’t feel like a normal book. Smith followed a similar model in NW but that came together as it captured the city is what trying so hard to evoke whereas this feels very much apart. I can see why many other users on here have chosen not to rate it.

It's a very powerful debut, but I did not enjoy all of it. A mixed bag for me.

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Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
531 reviews7,082 followers
October 18, 2014
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.
Profile Image for RandomAnthony.
394 reviews111 followers
July 28, 2011
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-surface hot writer can embrace the complexity inherent in both the smaller and larger narratives of multiple generations. Zadie Smith's talent and enthusiasm are tangible; she writes like she's bouncing up and down in her seat.

White Teeth is as much about inertia as free will. Samad and Archie, brought together by their bad luck and questionable soldiering circumstances, spend much of their time in a decrepit English pub. Archie marries a Jamaican woman he meets on a stairway at a stranger's New Year's Day party. Samad's wife, Alsana, and Archie's wife, Clara, form a careful friendship. The friends' children are first-generation English carrying histories and expectations; Samad and Alsana's twin boys and Archie and Clara's daughter inhabit the no man's land between tradition and the present that, really, is everyone's land. Questions of loyalty, tradition, and identity emerge in the flash of conflict and creaking, inevitable societal evolution. As Alsana notes, circumstances emerge in which people are involved, to use her word, without intention but without question. When the two families encounter the white, affluent Chalfens, the cheeriest, most cluelessly evil parents I may have ever encountered in literature, twin brothers reunite (or at least occupy the same country), and the book's last hundred pages race to a thriller-esque ending that, while not tying every loose end, left me feeling as if I had read a singular, satisfying novel. Smith doesn't rely on easy, obvious immigration issues to drive White Teeth; she goes much deeper into characters' minds and families without preaching.

I hope I'm not making White Teeth sound pious. In fact, I would argue Smith wrote the novel in part as a reaction to the piety that obscures truthful narrative. She builds each character from the ground up and knows when to move from one to the next. I'm also not sure if I understood every metaphorical nuance; I'm not English, Bengali, Muslim, or a Jehovah's Witness, all elements intrinsic to the storyline, so I most likely missed symbolic elements. While I don't want to minimize the immigrant experience, white readers, I believe, feel some of the same vertigo as the characters when navigating a landscape with different cultural touchstones, e.g. signs in Polish and Korean up and down Chicago's Milwaukee Avenue. Zadie Smith doesn't praise or criticize these landscapes. She focuses on the fear and hope inherent in characters' reactions to the stimuli. The players can't control the landscape as much as accept and respond to it. This is a sprawling, well-structured novel. White Teeth is a near-masterwork, the best book I've ever read about different cultures' slow, tectonic plate-like creep past, toward, and into each other.

Profile Image for Katie.
258 reviews328 followers
March 23, 2019
Zadie Smith's prose style here is notably different from her later books. It's like she read all Martin Amis' early novels and to a large extent replicated his distinctive rhythms into her prose. So too is the emphasis on comedy much heavier here than in later books. She's making more effort to charm - which, I suppose, is only natural for a young unpublished author.

White Teeth is full of fabulous insight into the immigrant's experience of England. Zadie Smith has her finger on cultural pulses like few other writers. You always want to hear what she has to say about everyday cultural life. And especially she provides insights into the germs of terrorism. I loved her rendition of Jamaican speech patterns. She's fantastic at evoking the inventive vitality of improvisations of the English language.

At times it can be a novel that revels in its own silliness. As if Zadie gets carried away with her own youthful zest. And the ending is a bit of a damp squid. She orchestrates all her characters to gather in the same room at the end of the novel, all bursting with their conflicting imperatives and somehow manages to create a denouement that is both a bit daft and highly unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, lots to love here.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,271 reviews696 followers
December 17, 2015
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 reality as demonstrated by their worldy demographic percentages, rather than the plague of pretense sludging its way out of the past and into modern day entertainment maintaining against all odds that women are objects and people of color haven't been invented yet? Yes please.

I've noticed a common tone of grimaces and smirks at the college days of dorm room philosophizing, BYOB's galore in the booze and bong and Bourdieu, and I have to say, why? Shell out thousands for tuition, break your back and brain on everything so that you may make a living and never live it for the rest of your days, so that we may scoff at and scorn the few moments youthful selves stretched out their mind out of their own true volition? For if that's your habitus, you're not going to like this book at all.

There's no college here, mind you, nor the slightest hint of academic satire beyond the teachers and the parents and the volcanic smoldering that is the thousands of fags smoked in every courtyard of a colonial workhouse turned school. Rather, there's that periodic expounding on the smaller things in view of the bigger and vice versa, the sociopolitical/cultural/religious -isms galore in tidbits between plot and character and the standard rest, enough that I've just gone back to shove that four star up to a dazzling five because fuck it, I'd have to read ten of the classics to get the amount of true and glorious angry pointing out the lies and filth and prejudice of our world, our times. You say Middlemarch, I say been there, loved that, but these days of mine are played to the tune of "It's a Small Cosmopolitan World After All", and ivory towers just aren't going to cut it any more, no matter how well intentioned or lucky in hotfooting it out of hell. Heard of the Bechdel Test? Try the variant for people of color, or perhaps the Mako Mori Test. True, the book didn't pass the Russo Test, but there's a reason why I'm on the lookout for more Zadie titles to grace my shelves.

Now, since one side of my family has been in area of the later named United States since the 1600's, while the other is claimed to have been wandering around since the 1500's by an especially fervent Great Aunt, my sense of being an immigrant is nigh nonexistent. Thus, I'm not going to do anything inane like compare this work to the likes of Lahiri and Kogawa and other variations in the theme and said that the way the subject was handled felt more or less real to me. However, if you couldn't tell by my rant above, Zadie seized on the true and utter consequences of the people perceived as other migrating to and living in the country of the "self" perceivers and got angry about it. The result is an admittedly hilarious and corkscrew escapade across a multivarious cast of at least four generations, but the righteous fury is there, enough that I'm amazed I haven't come across one of those reviews decrying it for being "too political" or whatever the term is for authors mixing their Entertainment with Truth.

Regarding said reviews, I have seen ones dismissing the characters as unsympathetic caricatures, bemoaning the conclusion, wielding hedge clippers at the plot, what have you. To that I say...ehh. It's been a while since my baseline lay along those particular lines, and seeing how this reading turned out niggling doubts and annoyance free, I'd say I'm the better for it.
Profile Image for Alias Pending.
134 reviews19 followers
September 7, 2013
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 too much, let me sum up.

Basic Storytelling annoyances: It would have been nice if the author could have picked less than 10 main characters to focus on. Or, would have stopped introducing characters long before the second to last chapter. (Tangential annoyance: This late group of card-board cut out characters is created to mock pretentious college student types (oh, the inadvertent irony), but is a complete regurgitation of Monty Python's "what have the Romans ever done for us?" scene from Life of Brian. Just a general Boo out to that.)
Or, if the characters were anything but stereotypical one dimensional shadow puppets with two modes: Shouty and Really Shouty.
The Narrator attempts to convince the reader (the hated reader) that racial stereotypes shouting at each other is funny. The Narrator will put a "Funny Here Marker" in her dialogue to underline what is supposed to be funny. The FHM is easy to spot; it is a F-bomb if its really funny or an "assing" or "bastard" if it is (supposedly) mildly amusing. Truth be told, in the 70000 or so pages, I may have accidentally chuckled at some bits, but it is really too painful to remember now.

Intermediate storytelling annoyances: Don't continue a scene when the Point of View Character has left that scene. Abrupt use of flashback and flash-forward highlights the thin, uncertain texture of your narrative. Never be afraid to use one word, whereas three will annoy your readers (the hated readers). Plot, generally nice to have. Drama is not shouty, mean people being mean and shouty to each other. Exposition. Dear Cthulhu! the Narrator is an exposition machine. Please stop the expositioning. Being told the the backstory of every random character who pops in to be belittled and mocked is both unwanted and unwise.

Advanced Annoyances: Stop being redundant. Redundancy, stop. The redundant things, they are being, they must stop. Everything is said at least three times in the book. Three times. Some things are said six or more times. Thrip x20. Very. If the Narrator says Very something, it will be said at least twice. It is infuriating. And it is not just words. Whole scenes are redundant and are put in just to drive the reader (the hated reader - ok you get it, I'll stop) insane.

Extreme Annoyances: A third of the way into this book, just when the barrage of unfunny sitcom scenarios has numbed the reader into submission, the Narrator starts throwing in little clues, hints, that the Narrator knows exactly what it is doing. And She is not just mocking the poor characters, but you, the reader. Little bits about "Corkscrew dialogue" and "redundant writing" shows up. What is Corkscrew dialogue? Google doesn't know. The only thing I can think of is this - this book is corkscrew dialogue. It goes around and around, seemingly going deep beneath the surface, but not really moving at all. And the cork - that sucker broke off. No wine for you.

Shaking that paranoia off, I continue. At the end of the day, this 'story' is just a bunch of shallow characters shouting religious catchphrases at each other. There is some non-sense about Nazis (Cthulhu help you if you fall for the "OMG FATE!" moment) thrown in at the end to make this 'story' weighty, but it is just more out of nowhere, hand waving junk that doesn't work, because the smug, beyond omniscient Narrator hasn't earned it. Can't say fairer than that.




Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
531 reviews137 followers
December 22, 2020
They say life moves fast? No.
It moves mad slow.
Every mountaintop is just a new plateau,
Another mountain on top of that, yo.
Now you're like Sisyphus climbing forever, screaming:
"God's an asshole!"

- Wax, "Continue"

I'm a sucker for the story of a botched suicide...

White Teeth speaks to deep and resonant themes about the universal experiences of life, the questions we all have and the answers we all hope to find. It has left me so steeped in beautiful/quirky prose that I feel inadequate trying to write creatively about it. So let me just bullet-point out my main takeaways here and hope they convey even half of my enthusiasm for Zadie Smith's undeniable talent:

- The characters are so rich, each has a believable and well-rounded life that comes through on the page.
- The problems they face are relatable: they were born, they grew older, the world changed around them.
- Don't get me started on her beautifully fluid writing style!

This is a long-ish book and yet there is never a lull in the energy. The flowing currents shift and transmute based on the scene's needs but it is always buoyant, a merry dance that settles comfortably somewhere between the gorgeous prose of Realism and the whimsical wonkiness of Postmodernism. She is playful with language, but shows enough restraint that her way of writing serves as a tool to display character rather than stealing the show for its own sake.

The world can get lonely. The world can get strange. But it's populated with real people who seldom conform to expectations, and there is comfort in that.

5 stars. Stunning. If not a must-read, at least a you-really-ought-to-consider-it-read.
Profile Image for Stephen M.
137 reviews586 followers
July 25, 2013
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 reason I'm willing to sit through the inconvenience of text-typing out this small something of a review is because this book is the shiz and I would think that anyone anywhere would find something to enjoy within the pages of this wondrous book. Of course there are a number of negative reviews on this site and I wonder if this book suffered from the over-hype-backlash syndrome that has claimed the lives of so many modern classics. And you're probably saying "woah woah, what is this modern classic clap trap? Aren't you just hyping up this book already?" Probably. But please, allow me to try to win over your cold cynical hearts:

--do you enjoy the prose stylizings and authorial wit of David Foster Wallace? Then there might be something similar in style and tone in this book for you.

--are you frustrated by the lack of female and/or minority representation in popular literature? Yup yup, read read.

--are you the type of person who tends to take on the "fly-on-the-wall" persona when confronted with difficult political and/or religious issues? Okay yeah definitely, this book here.

--do you enjoy Franzian-type family dramas and narratives that stretch across multiple generations to impress upon the reader a grand feeling of complete character omniscience having learned about all of his/her familial/genetic predispositions? Go! Go! Go!

--have you ever thought to yourself "I wonder what it would be like if a scientist, a psychotic animal rights activist, a fundamentalist Muslim, and a genetically modified mouse were in thr same room together"? Let your oddly specific fantasies come true now!

--is your goodreads' username s.penkevich? I wanna see your review of this so bad, like woah.

--and finally, and most importantly: do you enjoy reading a novel that is tinged with just the right amount of autobiographical flourish so as to give the "she-had-to-have-been-there" type of authenticity to every plot point, and each character is written with such empathy and compassion (no matter their socio-economic background) that every one of them seems to have a stake in the story and the overall outcome in the end? You're looking at the key to your deepest literature needs!

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then I can certainly recommend this wonderful, impressive debut.
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,410 followers
March 2, 2012
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.

Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
350 reviews393 followers
June 29, 2016
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 attempt to claim true manhood. There is so much story in between. Two twin brothers, one who is sent back to the Middle East in hopes of retaining the Muslim ways. The other fully engaged in all things secular.

Smith does a lot of meandering, but in the end, what do a fundamentalist Muslim, a Jehovah's Witness, and ardent animal rights activists have in common? Sounds like a joke, but as it turns out, quite a lot.

A few things this book had me thinking about.
-How science and religion have become polarized.
-How different one generation is from the next, and how this impacts both.
-Many things are not at all what we expect.
-What defines manhood.
-How black and white thinking is so dangerous.
-How one action leads to unforeseen others, and all of life seems connected.

My only real problem with this read was the length of the meandering narratives.
Profile Image for Emily Coffee and Commentary.
272 reviews80 followers
August 10, 2022
A flexuous saga of ethics, ideals, passions, and relationships between three very different but close knit families in London. Filled with humor, and all the varying chaos that comes with clashing beliefs, desires, and motivations, this novel widely explores the experiences of those just trying to get by. The prose has a unique flare that gives the impression of living alongside each character as the years go by, the emotions building up until they finally implode.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
470 reviews765 followers
May 20, 2021
The Year of Women--in which I'm devoting 2021 to reading female authors only--continues with my introduction to Zadie Smith and her debut novel White Teeth. Published in 2000, this is an acclaimed book I wanted to love and understand most of, in the way I'd love a badge for David Foster Wallace or Salman Rushdie. No book is for everyone, though. By the 10% mark, I had started skimming. By 20%, I surrendered. Smith's talent in language arts is evident opening this book up to any page and blindly pointing at any paragraph. What's absent is story, as well as a character who wanted something and had obstacles put in her way.

White Teeth is a novel I felt I could skip five pages without missing anything other than writing. Smith is as active as Simone Biles cartwheeling all over each and every page: inventive writing, colorful writing, bold writing, witty writing, triple axle writing. I was delighted initially, then reached a point where I wanted all that leaping around to stop and the story to start. I've enjoyed novels where the author pointed her writing out, reminded the reader they were reading a novel, but always because there was a compelling story. Smith writes about one character, and then another character, and then and then and then ... Wondering how this might've happened, I only had to research how old Smith was when she wrote this book. Case closed.

Zadie Smith was born in the working class suburb of Willesden in northwest London in 1975. Her mother emigrated to the U.K. from Jamaica in 1969 and married an Englishman thirty years her senior. Smith, who changed her name from Sadie to "Zadie" at fourteen, was fond of tap dancing and jazz singing but deemed writing to be a more attainable career path. She graduated from King's College, Cambridge with a degree in English, several short stories published in the college literary collection and a novel, White Teeth, which she was offered a six-figure advance on when she was 21. Its critical and commercial success made Smith an international literary sensation. She lives in Kilburn, London with her husband and two children.



Previous reviews in the Year of Women:

-- Come Closer, Sara Gran
-- Veronica, Mary Gaitskill
-- Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, Viv Albertine
-- Pizza Girl, Jean Kyoung Frazier
-- My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh
-- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg
-- The Memoirs of Cleopatra, Margaret George
-- Miss Pinkerton, Mary Roberts Rinehart
-- Beast in View, Margaret Millar
-- Lying In Wait, Liz Nugent
-- And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
-- Desperate Characters, Paula Fox
-- You, Caroline Kepnes
-- Deep Water, Patricia Highsmith
-- Don't Look Now and Other Stories, Daphne du Maurier
-- You May See a Stranger: Stories, Paula Whyman
-- The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Deesha Philyaw
Profile Image for M.  Malmierca.
323 reviews258 followers
May 9, 2021
Zadie Smith (1975-) en su ópera prima Dientes blancos (2000) traza un relato costumbrista de un barrio de inmigrantes londinense durante las décadas de los 70, los 80 y los 90. Toma como referencia una atípica amistad, forjada por el azar durante la primera guerra mundial, entre Samad, un musulmán moreno originario de Bangladesh, bien parecido, educado, orgulloso y testarudo, y Archie, un blanco ateo inglés, poco agraciado, pusilánime, indeciso e ingenuo, que reaparece después de 30 años y a la que ambos se aferran para soportar unas vidas que no funcionan como ellos habían esperado.

Zadie Smith se apropia de sus vidas y las de sus familias para construir un microcosmos donde ejemplificar los múltiples obstáculos a los que los inmigrantes se enfrentan para conseguir su lugar en el mundo. Obstáculos motivados por prejuicios religiosos, culturales, sociales, económicos, raciales, generacionales, de género, de identidad… de los demás, pero también de ellos mismos y que los lleva a buscar diversas formas, muchas veces radicales, de ser aceptados por un país, una religión, una familia, unos amigos... Porque la sensación que se observa con más intensidad en Dientes blancos es la de vacío, un vacío que hay que llenar cueste lo que cueste, aunque eso signifique equivocarse muchas veces y sufrir sin remedio.

Aparte del interés de estas experiencias vitales, lo que hace diferente esta obra es la manera que la autora eligió para contárnoslas. Durante sus más de 500 páginas se mantiene un tono de humor, incluso irónico, con unas ingeniosas y acertadas apreciaciones en la descripción de personajes y situaciones que aleja la lectura de un tremendismo y un juicio moral que hubiera sido demasiado ingenuo.

Para algunos será frivolidad, para otros normalización, para mí sencillamente una buena elección de estilo. En cualquier caso: lectura interesante.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
474 reviews573 followers
December 28, 2017
Wow, what a lot to take in! I won't even attempt to summarise this sprawling, densely-plotted novel - suffice to say that it traces the history of two multicultural London families at the tail end of the 20th century. Along the way themes such as race relations, religious extremism, immigration, and even the ethics of genetic engineering are explored, all with an intoxicating energy and a sparkling sense of humour.

The aspect of the book I admired most was its focus on family. Both the Iqbal and Jones clans are dysfunctional in their own way - obstacles such as marital infidelity and fundamentalism serve to threaten the family unit. Continents may divide them, conflicting ideologies might drive them apart but there is a familial bond that will never break and an unconditional love for one another that will always exist (even though they may be slow to admit this at times).

The story is dizzying in scope and though are numerous plot threads to tie up, it all comes together in an immensely satisfying finale. It blows my mind that Zadie Smith had written White Teeth by the age of 24. Little wonder that she took the literary world by storm.
Profile Image for Britany.
941 reviews415 followers
November 4, 2018
I started this book back in September and finishing it in November. Granted I did take a 17 day vacation and set this one aside during that break, but this was a huge struggle for me to get through.

This is a character study, with religious themes and historical references. Two men, who find themselves alone during the war become best friends-- Archibald Jones and Samad Iqbal. Generational in nature and how certain events shaped their lives in the most odd way. Different cultures are introduced, characters from Jamaica, Bengal and those passionate about leaflets and witnesses. I enjoyed the generational nature of how these families crossed paths and how each decision led to the most ridiculous set of events.

The writing was amazing, at time the book was hilarious, sarcastic and poignant. The research Smith must have done to find out about all these different cultures and religions and political events during the 1970s-1990s was spot on. Why was this such a slog for me? I cannot pinpoint it except to say too long, too many paragraphs and pages of philosophical meandering. While there were small sections of plot, it felt like nothing happened. The ending felt rushed and slightly disappointed. I could put this down for weeks and never want to pick it back up again. Each time I did pick it up, I enjoyed it more than I thought. This is a hard one to rate, therefore I'm going with a 2 as GR calls that "It was ok". I would say that this book reminded me of JK Rowling's "A Casual Vacancy" and parts of "A Prayer for Owen Meany" (maybe just the religious parts). Overall, I'm glad I read this one, couldn't recommend it for every reader and I'm so glad I'm finished with it.
Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
February 2, 2019
More (now) than fifteen years ago, when I read this, I thought it was the best contemporary fiction I'd read in ages. Even though I don't remember a whole lot of the story, I'm still in accord with that memory. It's one of the contemporary novels that I can see myself reading again in the future, or at least sampling.



. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Previous review: What Uncle Sam Really Wants Chomsky
Next review: Border Crossing
More recent review: My Brilliant Friend

Previous library review: Strumpet City
Next library review: Brick Lane
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,142 reviews486 followers
August 15, 2013
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 mom wish them to be, and being Muslim as their father demands them to be. Millat ends up smoking pot, turning punk, test-driving all women he comes in contact with, admiring the Bruce Willis kind of action heroes and joining a militant Muslim group called KEVIN. Magid becomes an eccentric well-mannered nerdy scientist who wants to be a lawyer, after his dad abducted him and send him back to the old country to become accustomed with the old traditions and religion. But Magid ends up coming back an atheist and more British than the Brits themselves. Both sons become something Samad never wanted them to be.

Archie Jones, the only 'real Brit' in the situation, is the beginning and ending of the narrative - the last man standing in any situation. He married the toothless Clara, an immigré from Jamaica. Her grandmother, Hortense, is a staunch Jahova's Witness who stuck to her believes through thick and thin. Clara is much younger than Archie. Their union produces Irie - an agnostic seeker of love and peace. An intelligent young lady who never loses her sense of balance.

Archie and Samat come a very long way and became the best of friends since the second World War. Their two different versions of Samat's great great Grandfather, Mangal Pande's history, keep them in debate ever since they became friends.

Samat says to Archie in one of their many discussions of the matter in O'Connolls:

"Of course I see your point of view, Achie, I do. But my point is, and has always been, from the very first time we discussed the subject; my point is that this is not the full story.

And yes, I realize that we have several times thoroughly investigated the matter, but the fact remains: full stories are as rare as honesty, precious as diamonds. If you are lucky enough to uncover one, a full story will sit in your brain like lead. They are difficult. They are long-winded. They are epic. They are like the stories God tells: full of impossibly particular information. You
don't find them in the dictionary."

This is what the book is all about. The full, long-winded, difficult, epic around the particular information(history) of three families, their cultures, religions and all the issues of modern life in the western world of London.

The third family, with the agnostic Jewish scientist prof. Marcus Chalfen with his wife, Joyce and their brilliant sons living out their Chalfenism, get the time bomb ticking for the final scene when he releases his research on genetic manipulation on a mouse which he plans to patent, copyright and bar code!

The FutureMouse© would ultimately portray and repeat the legend of Samat's great-great grandfather, Mangal Pande which began

" in the spring of 1857 in a factory in Dum-Dum a new kind of bullet went into production. Designed to be used in English guns by Indian soldiers, like most bullets at the time, they had casing that must be bitten in order to fit the barrel. There seemed nothing exceptional about them, until it was discovered by some canny factory worker that they were covered in a grease - a grease made from the fat of pigs, monstrous to Muslims, and the fat of cows, sacred to Hindus. It was an innocent mistake - as far as anything is innocent on stolen land - an infamous British blunder.....

....Under the specious pretext of new weaponry, the English were intending to destroy their caste, their honour, their standing in the eyes of God and men - everything, in short, that made life worth living....."


The launch of FutureMouse© guarantees a surprising ending to a tragicomedy, very well told and very well presented by Zadie Smith. There are no lose ends left behind.

It is, in fact, a book I would love to read again! There are so many layers of humanity and cultures exposed in the book, and relentlessly made fun of in many aspects, that it can really be enjoyed a second time. It will be worth it !

I really LIKED IT!
Profile Image for Gode.
105 reviews35 followers
January 12, 2018
ვაჰ, არ მეგონა ნამდვილად თუ ასეთი წიგნი მქონდა სახლში და რატომღაც ვარიდებდი თავს (კაიჰო, 848 ფურცლის გამო🤦🏻‍♂️).

ამ წიგნმა ერთ რამეში დამარწმუნა: რომ წიგნი საუკეთესოა იმისთვის თუ გინდა ცოტა ხნით მაინც სხვაგან წახვიდე და სხვა ცხოვრებით იცხოვრო. სერიოზულად, ვინმე თუ მკითხავს საახალწლო არდადეგებზე სად იყავიო, ვეტყვი ხან ლონდონში, ხან ბანგლადეშში და ხან იამაიკაზე-მეთქი. ისიც, მეკაიფებიო მკითხავს და ვუპასუხებ: შეიძლება კი. შეიძლება არა-მეთქი.

წერის სტილი ძალიან გამორჩეული და დამახასიათებელი აქვს ავტორს. იუმორი განსაკუთრებული. იყო მომენტები როცა ვხარხარებდი ბოლო ხმაზე. მაგრამ ამავდროულად ძალიან სევდიანი ამბებია გადმოცემული.
აქ ავტორი ღმერთის სახით გვევლინება და ყველაფერი წინასწარ იცის, ამიტომ ხან მომავალში გადახტება, ხან წარსულში, ხან გეუბნება რომ რამოდენიმე გვერდის მერე ეს მოხდებაო. ცოტათი გამაღიზიანებელი იყო ეს და არ მომწონდა. ან თუგინდ მისი ჩარევები დასკვნების სახით, ზოგჯერ დამრიგებლური ტონით საუბარი. მაგრამ მერე ხვდები რომ ესაა წიგნის ერთ-ერთი მთავარი კოზირი. ამ უცნაური თხრობით გიზიდავს და გინარჩუნებს 800 ფურცლამდე. და, ის რაც სხვა დროს არ მომეწონებოდა და არც მომწონდა, აქ მუღამი დავუჭირე.

ძალიან არ მინდა უზარმაზარი რივიუ გამომივიდეს და არავინ წაიკითხოს, ამიტომ მოკლედ ვიტყვი რომ ძალიან მაგარი პერსონაჟები ყავს სმითს. მაგრები იმ მხრივ კი არა, რომ საგმირო საქმეებს ჩადიან ან სიკეთეს ასხივებენ, არამედ იმიტომ რომ ძალიან ნამდვილები არიან. სულაც არ ცდილობენ თავი შეგაყვარონ ან შეგაძულონ. იქცევიან თავისი სიმართლის მიხედვით და ვერ ხვდები ისე ეჩვევი მათ, ისე ზიხარ მათთან ერთად მაგიდის ირგვლივ და კამათობ, მსჯელობ რელიგიების, კულტურების, თანამედროვეობის, წარსულის, რასების, ადამიანების თუ ცხოველების შესახებ.

უაააამრავი თემაა ამ წიგნში წამოჭრილი და უააამრავ საკითხს ეხება. ერთი შეხედვით, შეიძლება ჩვენი ქვეყნისთვის შორეული ამბები იყოს, მაგრამ ჩემი აზრით პირიქით, ძალიან ახლოა. ბოლოს და ბოლოს ხომ ყველას გვყავს ოჯახებში ერთი პანდე მაინც.

აჰა, მაინც დიდი გამოვიდა რივიუ, არადა იმის მეათედიც ვერ დავწერე რისი თქმაც მინდოდა და რაც მითხრა ამ წიგნმა.

ჰოდა, ჯობია გავუშვა ეს სიტყვების რახარუხი წყლიანი ჭიქის ფსკერზე, თეთრი პროთეზის მსგავსად.

ამენ,
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,810 reviews348 followers
April 25, 2016
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, alone, and started out working in the lumber camps of Northern Alberta. He was a religious man and was mortified when he learned that the first English words that he acquired were cuss words. My grandmother is my hero—she came by boat to Quebec and then boarded a train to come to Western Canada. She spoke no English and no French, had 3 small children, a bag of apples, and no money. And yet they all made it to Athabasca to meet Grandpa.

Now, you may think that Danish immigrants would have felt a warm welcome in Canada in the late 1920s/early 1930s. Still, they didn’t fit in because they didn’t yet speak English and they had some different customs. Also, the Danes and the Ukrainians settled in the same area and there was some kind of weird rivalry between the two ethnic groups. Several generations later, and both groups of immigrants fit into Canada like they have always been here. It’s hardest for the first two generations.

So I could identify in a small way with the situation in White Teeth where people trace their heritage back to Jamaica and Bangladesh and are trying to fit into an overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon society.

But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts compared to what the immigrant fears—dissolution, disappearance.


When your culture is very different from the new country (like Samad and Alsana’s Islamic life), you dread your children acclimatizing to their new surroundings—the religion that you cherish has potential to be lost (Magid) or changed until its unrecognizable (Millat). Contrast that with ever-so-Anglo-Saxon Archie, who ends up with a black daughter. Irie will always be considered foreign, even though she has just as many English ancestors as many Caucasian English, and she really feels her foreign-ness despite being born in North London. Hence her romantic notions of “the homeland” of Jamaica.

It’s amusing to watch Archie—unworthy recipient of white male privilege—seemingly unaware of all the ramifications of racial and class politics that swirl around him. Samad is the intellectual of the two and his intelligence is rarely recognized, while stolid, thick Archie wanders through life seemingly without impediment. Samad is torn between wanting the pleasurable things of life and being a devout Muslim. He literally tears his twin sons apart, sending Magid back to Bangladesh to become a “good boy” and leaving Millat in London, taking on the bad-boy half of the equation (and in many ways, living out some of his father’s desires).

There are lots of good things and many shrewd observations in WT, but to my way of thinking there were too many ideas being bandied about. It seemed to try to tackle everything: colonization, migration, class, race, prejudice, history, genetics—all intertwined, but maybe a bite that is just a little too big to chew. No wonder the book is over 400 pages.

Two weeks ago, I went to our university’s distinguished lecturer series to hear the author, Zadie Smith, speak. As a result, I having been hearing her lovely voice in my mind’s ear as I read, as if she is reading the novel to me. If you ever get a chance to hear her in person, go, do it. She is every bit as direct and funny as her prose would lead you to believe. I think she would be a lot of fun to have lunch with!
Profile Image for Franco  Santos.
485 reviews1,326 followers
February 6, 2017
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 creencias diferentes; los Iqbal, provenientes de Bangladesh, y los Jones, parte jamaicanos y parte británicos. Estas familias tratan de hacerse valer a través de sus respectivos pasados en una sociedad que no coincide con sus costumbres. Lo esencial en esto es que, a pesar de dichas diferencias, estas dos familias se relacionan entre sí sin mayores inconvenientes, hasta incluso encuentran pertenencia de forma cruzada.

Resumiendo, en su primera novela Zadie Smith ha sabido desarrollar una historia estupenda, con personajes complejos y entrañables, mucho humor, emoción e inteligencia, todo esto sin ignorar la escritura, que es magistral. Multiculturalismo y conexión humana en su estado más puro.
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