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White Teeth
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Group Reads - Fiction > Group read April 2018- White Teeth

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

The winner of our poll for April's read was White Teeth by Zadie Smith.


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 25, 2018 08:45AM) (new)

I think I've read this ages ago but I will see if there is an audiobook to read it again. I want to get to Swing Time by the same author soon

I've just seen the audiobook is released on audible on 24th April this year! I will have a look for a paperback!


message 3: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire  | 66 comments I have it ready!


B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments I read this novel a couple of years ago and found it to be a brilliant read.


Kathleen | 291 comments I'm hoping to join you all for this one. I've never read it, but picked up a copy at the library book sale and it looks fabulous!


message 6: by Pink (last edited Mar 25, 2018 04:55PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Looking forward to this one, it's been on my shelf since it came out!😳


Karin | 1953 comments I just read this in 2017 and am looking forward to the discussion!


Leslie | 15985 comments I am so glad that this won! I have never read any Zadie Smith before. Now, I need to ensure I can get a copy from the library...


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
I feel like I've discussed this one before in university but honestly not 100% sure.


message 10: by Josen (new)

Josen (josens) | 85 comments Got mine from the library this weekend. :)


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I've started listening to the audiobook of this via CD in my car as the audible isn't released until the 24th April

So far, I am really enjoying it. I am quite intrigued by the character, Clara. I have enjoyed some of the religious discussions and there is a subtle dark humour I'm enjoying


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
Just ordered the paperback, from the synopsis, it does look like something very different to what I would typically read.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Alannah wrote: "Just ordered the paperback, from the synopsis, it does look like something very different to what I would typically read."

I hope you like it. It seems so far to be a gritty family saga based in 1970s London. However, I am only 2 discs in. The writing is brilliant


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
Sounds good, hopefully, should get it later today.


Kathleen | 291 comments How's everyone doing with this? At first I wasn't sure--it seemed just incredibly smart and sarcastic but the characters didn't grab me. But now, at 100 pages in, I'm loving it.


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
I'm about to start this myself now.


Karin | 1953 comments I just read this earlier in 2018 and am looking forward to the discussion, although it was only 2 stars for me as I didn't end up liking it (but didn't hate it).


message 18: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Just started, about 30 pages in. Enjoying the writing so far, it's the first thing I've read by Zadie Smith. I think I watched some of the tv series when it came out, but that's a long time ago and I can't remember anything.


Leslie | 15985 comments I just started this morning. I was amused by the Jehovah's Witnesses' belief that 1 Jan. 1975 would be the end of the world :)


message 20: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink I've just started Samad's section, so another jump in time. I really enjoyed reading about Archie, especially when we got some of his backstory from the war. It made me appreciate him more as a character, though he's not the most likeable person.


Kathleen | 291 comments Yep, Archie is definitely unique. I love how she kept taking a step back to fill in the characters' stories. Samad is my favorite. His character just jumps off the page I think. I'm going to miss him when I'm done with this!


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I have a few thoughts on Samad, think I’m a bit ahead of some. I’m on cd 7/19.

(view spoiler)


message 23: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Struggling a little with this right now. I'm on Irie's section, the chapter titled Canines, where we're introduced to the Chaldens. They seem insufferable and at page 320 it seems a little late to introduce a whole new family. Hoping it picks up again for me.

As for my thoughts on the book itself. The structure of the story seems very familiar, skipping through generations, while giving some back story and introducing a new range of characters. Of course lots of books do this, but the setting of London and focus on different cultures feels like something I've read quite often in recent years. Perhaps this type of story has become more prevalent in the years since it was published.


Leslie | 15985 comments Pink wrote: "Struggling a little with this right now. I'm on Irie's section, the chapter titled Canines, where we're introduced to the Chaldens. They seem insufferable and at page 320 it seems a little late to ..."

They are insufferable!

I have finished & overall, I thought it was very good. However (view spoiler)

What I found most interesting was the way Smith showed how the second generation felt pulled between their parents' culture and the English one they were surrounded by & the different ways they reacted to that conflict.

@Pink -- the structure & story reminded me a bit of Brick Lane by Monica Ali which was one of our group fiction books a few years ago.


message 25: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Yes Brick Lane is one of the books it reminds me of. I suppose they're of a similar time too. I'm already waiting for when Archie's secret gets revealed to Samad, as it's been obvious since the beginning what happened there.


Kathleen | 291 comments I'm close to the end and feeling lots more complexity and even a few more characters are added very late. I'm hoping when everything comes together I'm able to understand it. :-)

No complaints overall though--I've been captivated all the way through this.


message 27: by Pink (last edited Apr 15, 2018 08:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink I've finished the chapters on Irie and good news for me, I'm enjoying it a lot more again! The Chalfens were still insufferable, but they were meant to be and I think they're serving a purpose to contrast against our two main families. I'm looking forward to the next section, where I expect the return of Magid, so I hope to see how he'll reintegrate with his family and how Millat will react to his return.


Kathleen | 291 comments Glad to hear you're liking it again, Pink.

What impresses me the most about Zadie Smith is her ability to create such an array of characters of different ages and backgrounds, and make them all so authentic. The way each of these characters expresses themselves is so revealing, and so specific.

And she throws in cultural references appropriate to each too. One that struck me was Alsana making reference to David Niven that was perfect for the situation, time period, and her particular age, not to mention loaded with possible hidden meanings.

Related to that ability, this may sound silly, but have you noticed how well Smith creates dialog of people with their mouth full? It is amazing to me! I think she must be just remarkably perceptive.


message 29: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Dialog of people with their mouth full? Like literally? I don't think I noticed that, though I did enjoy her dialogue with all the accents.

I finished this yesterday and overall I enjoyed it. I thought the ending came too fast. The whole book was long in digressions, so it felt rushed in comparison. I'd also have liked more commentary on Archie and Samad's feelings after the revelation and on Magid and Millat's relationship. In fact I'd have liked more resolutions with everyone, not the one paragraph snippet of seven years in the future. I never like this device in books.

One of my favourite things about this, beyond the look at different immigrant and second generation families, was the use of religion. I felt Smith packed a lot of information in here, without being judgemental or holding one faith up against another. It's probably the most I've encountered reading about Jehover's Witnesses in a work of fiction.

Being critical, I think the book is too long. While also not giving enough character development, but that's because she has too many different characters to get through, so we can only spend a certain amount of time with each one. I'd have liked less attention spent of the Chalfens, but they did serve a purpose being there.

I can see why the book got a lot of buzz when it came out and it's remarkable that Zadie Smith wrote it while she was still at university. Although I've put it off for so many years and heard it spoken about with such praise, that it didn't quite live up to all the hype for me. I'm glad it was our group read and that I finally read it.


Leslie | 15985 comments Pink, it seems like once again we have similar reactions! Most of the things that you complain about are the same ones which I mentioned in my spoiler.

Regarding the dialect: I don't think that the people had their mouth full (though I can understand how it might have read that way). In general, I hate reading dialects (SO much better in audiobook form!!) and this was not an exception. However, I could faintly hear in my mind's ear the Jamaican accent in Clara and Hortense's speech.

I wonder if the impression of having a mouthful was partially due to Clara's false teeth! Speaking of which, Irie's reaction to discovering her mother had false teeth seemed a bit over the top to me. What do you guys think?


Kathleen | 291 comments The false teeth dialog was also great, but I swear there was at least one scene while they were talking during dinner and ... well, I'll just have to find it! :-)

I love reading dialects when I can understand them, and particularly when the word choice is meaningful as well as how the words are said. I thought Smith did an excellent job with this.

Agree about the use of religion, and also that it could have been shorter. My interest definitely lagged toward the end.

I'll be back with dinner conversation quotes, or confession that I'm imagining things!


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

I’ve had to pause on this one. The cd audiobook I got from the library is too damaged at about halfway through. The new audiobook comes out on the 24th so I have preordered it and will restart then.

I’m enjoying the book enough to want to keep going which is good! I will read people’s thoughts and opinions once I’m a bit further through


message 33: by Pam (new)

Pam (bluegrasspam) | 675 comments I just saw that White Teeth made the cut for the new TV show on PBS- Great American Read. They are starting with 100 favorites and whittling it down to 1! I’m not reading the book but I think I saw the TV show, 1 or 2 episodes, several years ago. The show was entertaining. I’ll have to read the book one day!


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Ive restarted this now and have just met the Chalfons. I agree they are insufferable. Marcus is an arrogant pervert basically- I have no idea how Joyce could put up with him!

I do like the contrast of the families though.

I am enjoying the book but feel like a lot of nothing has happened and I’m half way through. I do like the writing style but it’s not quite as engaging as I had hoped


message 35: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink I agree with your comment that it feels like nothing much happens. I also enjoyed the writing, but not as much as I hoped. I think that's because I've heard a lot of hype over many years, but this is the first time I've read her work. I hope you enjoy it again now you've restarted.


message 36: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie Thanks for all your comments, I have been considering this book. You have all helped me decide.


message 37: by [deleted user] (last edited May 01, 2018 10:13AM) (new)

I just finished a couple of days ago. I preferred the narration of the second audiobook I had!

Overall I liked the book but I didn’t love it. It’s a very ambitious look at 2 families over many decades and it covers a lot of themes. I particularly enjoyed the aspects of religious discussions and some of the discussions around race. I think the characters are well developed and very true to life. None of them are particularly likeable really but they all seem real. I liked Irie and enjoyed her chapters.

I also liked the discussion around the mouse and the ethics around this but I felt the ending was a bit rushed. It might be the audiobook but I felt a bit confused at the end. I think I would have preferred more about how the different groups at the end dealt with things rather than some of the other themes in the book (Samad and the teacher for example)

I am not sure exactly what has made me not love the book given what I’ve said above. I feel it was lacking something, maybe tried to tackle just too much?


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Chrissie wrote: "Thanks for all your comments, I have been considering this book. You have all helped me decide."

What did you decide, Chrissie? I think most of us have had mixed feelings but I'm glad I read the book.


message 39: by Chrissie (new) - added it

Chrissie Heather, I will skip it. It is for me JUST as important to know which books to skip as those one should read,

Thank you.


message 40: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Heather, it sounds like we all had similar feelings. It was good, but not quite as good as I'd hoped. Agree about the ending being too rushed and on topics that I wasn't as interested in.


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Pink wrote: "Dialog of people with their mouth full? Like literally? I don't think I noticed that, though I did enjoy her dialogue with all the accents.

I finished this yesterday and overall I enjoyed it. I t..."


Pink, I'm interested that you didn't feel there was much character development. I actually felt like the main characters were quite well developed in my mind. I think I understood Irie, Millet, Samad and Alsana pretty well. I think Archie and Clara could have been developed more as you didn't get a feel for them in the later part of the book.

I enjoyed the Chalfens chapters as they made me laugh and were the classic satire of the middle class family

I found this article whilst looking for the correct spelling of Chalfens

https://www.theguardian.com/books/200...


Leslie | 15985 comments Thanks for the link to the Guardian's article Heather. It was interesting reading! I wonder if the author's contention that Smith uneasily juxtaposes satire and "regular" novel might explain the fact that many of us felt the book didn't quite live up to its reputation.

Or it could just be that the initial 'buzz' about the book was inflated - this seems to me to be quite common.


message 43: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Heather, I did get a sense of who everyone was, but it slightly seemed like she was ticking all the boxes of different types of people and perhaps there were too many for my liking. Just when I got invested in a character and wanted to know more, it skipped to someone new. I was most disappointed with how things focused on the mouse at the end. No resolutions between the twin brothers, or Archie and Samad after the big reveal.

I think that if I'd read this when it initially came out I'd have liked it more. It's perhaps suffered from overhype. I keep reminding myself that Smith was still in university when she wrote this, so I'd like to try more of her work and see if I find it more developed. Or if I still have the same frustrations of her story being so nearly what I want, but not quite delivering. That's a criticism I've often heard of her later books.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

That makes sense, Pink. I agree with you about the ending although I really enjoyed the mouse storyline! I would have liked to see more resolution.

One aspect of the book I found really interesting was the look at extreme views and fundamentalism. Magid was supposed to be taught the Islamic faith in Bangladesh whereas it was actually Millat who was exposed to more of the Muslim faith in the form of KEVIN. Marcus was also fundamentalist in his scientific beliefs which contrasted to Hortense as a Jehovahs Witness. The analysis of region and culture is fascinating in this book


message 45: by Pink (last edited May 02, 2018 04:21AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink Heather, if you enjoyed those aspect of White Teeth, I'll be interested to see what you think of Home Fire, which I think you're reading this month. It deals with the same topics of religion and fundamentalism, but is more current. Though I guess they're timeless issues, as it's a reworking of Antigone! I enjoyed it a lot.


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

I am hoping to get to it soon! Maybe my next book if my library requests haven't come in


Tweedledum  (tweedledum) | 2043 comments Just finished.... See my review here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
I think I started this at a bad time and have just been reminded about it in another thread. I really hope to get to this soon.


Joy D I read this in July rather than April...

I can see how it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed it:

White Teeth by Zadie Smith - 4 stars - My Review


message 50: by Karin (last edited Jul 17, 2019 02:02PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Karin | 1953 comments Leslie wrote: "I just started this morning. I was amused by the Jehovah's Witnesses' belief that 1 Jan. 1975 would be the end of the world :)"

I don't recall even knowing that back then, but then I was a kid and didn't personally know any Jehovah's Witnesses.


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