Shravanthi's Reviews > White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
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really liked it

White Teeth is the story of three families - the Jones, the Iqbals and the Chalfens - in post war England. And my, what a story they each have to tell!

Overall review:
As a reader, you have to give this book some time. It is a slow, SLOW read, but trust me, it gets better.

You see, when I was reading White Teeth, I didn't feel like reading any other book. It felt like I was somehow cheating on this incredible book somehow, and some part of me was also afraid that Alsana was going to jump out of the pages and scold me. Yes, it was that gripping. And I was completely invested in this tale for as long as I read it.

The book starts off with the first generation Jones and the Iqbals and how they come to be good family friends. In the first few chapters, the narrative of Mr.Archie Jones is - how do I put this - quite bland. It was really boring, much like the English with their stoic faces and stiff upper lips. I can understand how many readers would fall off at this point.

Somehow, I persisted. And boy, am I glad that I did. As we read about their lives, we begin to understand the real problems of immigrants from the Iqbals' POV. Samad Iqbal! You wacky, sonorous, proud but dirty fascist! Oh, don't look at me like that. If you read his story, you would say the same of him too. What I loved about White Teeth is that, the entire voice of the book changed when it switched from Archie's to Iqbal's narrative. Suddenly, the lines were alive and animated. The parts with Alsana and Iqbal are truly rib-tickling. I could almost recite word for word what Alsana would say. This husband-wife duo were one of the most realistic couples that I've ever read.

Some of the laugh-worthy moments are in the beginning of Samad's narrative. Although I appreciate the heavy dose of humor, I felt like the novel housed all possible jokes on Indians/English. Sometimes, even at the expense of the progress of the story.

Speaking of humor, it was so readily available. The setting was already there. The jokes are already there. All Zadie has to do was juxtapose of the two different worlds of the ruddy English and the grovelling Bangladeshis, to create comedy. Zadie did an excellent job. Her understanding of the many cultures and the human equations in each culture is extraordinary.

The story was forever branching out into distant arcs, anecdotes and facts. But it was fun. It kept me engaged. Zadie, the storyteller, also knew how to bring the reader's focus back. So that was good.

The thing about White Teeth though, is that there is no real plot. It's only an account of the lives of the two families in London. It was a fresh take on modern novels. I was growing tired of cliffhangers and villains who threatened to destroy the world. This novel is such a humble hat tip to Dickens and his like. I always love stories which have humor at their heart. In this story, there are so many complications and terrible things that happen to the characters, but Zadie found the funniest perspective in all of them. Kudos!

I expected more out of Irie because of the mix up in her genes. A great combination of fire and ice in the half-jamaican and half-British girl. But she was a major disappointment. Irie could've been much more. I wonder why Zadie didn't do anything there. Character-wise, Samad stole the show for me. Followed by Alsana. Incredible house wife portrayal.

Overall, White Teeth feels like an unhurried story that goes into many details. A story we can sit and read for days at leisure. A languid slice-of-life tale that helped me understand fascism from the grassroots level.

The best part about white teeth is that there is no plot per se but you will want to keep reading chapter after chapter to find out what is happening. Kinda like what you'd have in classics like Jane Austen's or Charles Dickens' works. So rare to see such work in post modern times where authors use cliffhangers like condoms. Way to go Zadie! Well deserved debut novel award.
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Quotes Shravanthi Liked

Zadie Smith
“You are never stronger...than when you land on the other side of despair.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“No matter what anyone says, suicide takes guts. It's for heroes and martyrs, truly vainglorious men. Archie was none of these. He was a man whose significance in the Greater Scheme of Things could be figured along familiar ratios:
Pebble : Beach
Raindrop : Ocean
Needle : Haystack”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth


Reading Progress

September 4, 2016 – Started Reading
September 4, 2016 – Shelved
September 4, 2016 –
page 11
2.03% "" Pebble : Beach\nRaindrop : Ocean\nNeedle : Haystack "\nWhat a great start to the story!"
September 5, 2016 –
page 61
11.25% "Okay. I've lost the thread. Where am I ? Who r these people ? What is going on ?"
October 21, 2016 –
page 92
16.97% "I didn't understand a damned word about the WW II :( too much of unknown specifics that is disconnecting me from the story."
November 10, 2016 –
page 122
22.51% "And the boy becomes a man. Or does he?"
November 10, 2016 –
page 146
26.94% "LOL. I can't help the loud guffaw Iqbal brings every time he's in the scene."
November 12, 2016 –
page 215
39.67% "OMG ! it just got funnier on another level! LOL!"
November 12, 2016 –
page 220
40.59% "No way! no way that it's this funny! I did not c this coming *snorting while laughing*"
November 12, 2016 –
page 222
40.96% "I love Zadie's narrative. I love it ! keep this laughter train rollicking :D"
November 12, 2016 –
page 261
48.15% "Why so serious suddenly ? although I must say, this portion tugged at my heartstrings."
November 13, 2016 –
page 309
57.01% "it went from being hilarious to bland in one chapter. :("
December 6, 2016 –
page 457
84.32% "Woaahh! I just had a cool retro, slow-mo scene play out in my head! awesome !!"
December 6, 2016 –
page 463
85.42% "You go tiger!!"
December 10, 2016 –
page 540
99.63% "Seriously, that's some of the best comedy I've read in a long time!"
December 10, 2016 – Finished Reading

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