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White Teeth
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1001 book reviews > White Teeth by Zadie Smith

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Chinook | 282 comments 4 stars - this was my rating back when I added it when I joined Goodreads, though I barely recalled the book and didn’t write reviews back then.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to White Teeth and though I’m like 99% certain that I read it while staying with Candace in Hong Kong, I didn’t really recall any of it. I suppose that is over a decade ago now! I enjoyed the way all the characters were connected in a sort of web and I liked the examination of what it’s like living as an outsider in a new country, the disappointments in particular - I’m in that sort of place in my own life right now.


message 2: by Gail (last edited Jun 09, 2020 11:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gail (gailifer) | 1543 comments White Teeth
4 stars

This is a large loud jangle of a satire made rich by multiple family stories through 3 generations. These families speak using many different dialects that reflect their English heritage. These are the heritage of many backgrounds such as Jamaica and Bangladesh, yet they are truly English. The author's omni narrator has a snarky way of making fun of all the characters but nevertheless you find the younger versions of the women to have fully developed personalities which I found I was empathetic toward.
I have read other Zadie Smith books and did not enjoy them as much as I enjoyed this, her first novel, written fearlessly at the age of 25. For example, she has no problem having a middle aged male Muslim character who she mocks continuously.
The ending does not work as it attempts to tie everything up and then gives up on that impossible task. However, it was still insightful to the immigrant conditions in England without having a neat ending.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 2 stars

There wasn't much about this book that I enjoyed. The characters are described as hapless in the publisher's description, but I would call them boring and self-centered. The premise was one I liked but the storyline was slow and disjointed. I found myself hitting the rewind button several times because I realized that I was no longer listening. And the ending was awful. I am glad to cross this one off my list.


Book Wormy | 2082 comments Mod
3 Stars

For the most part I really enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and the complicated mix of life that they represent. I loved the descriptions of society at the time as a large part this book is set in the realms of my childhood and the terrain was familiar and recognisable. However there were some sections that, for reasons I cannot define, dragged. They felt overdone and as if the point had already been made in a better format earlier in the story.

Zadie Smith is a brilliant writer and reading this was a delight in terms of the writing quality. The characters were fully formed and relatable, amusing without intending it, caught up in their own lives and beliefs and jumping off the page with their reality.

The beauty of the story is following the characters as they live their best lives and for that reason I am not mentioning the plot because you need to discover it for yourself.


Patrick Robitaille | 1005 comments ****

This was a very boisterous first novel, very reminiscent of Rushdie's style in Shame and Midnight's Children, less the magical realism. It centres on the lives of three different dysfunctional families, with characters driven by their principles (religious or scientific) and others trying to fit in in multicultural Britain. Despite their attempts to live harmoniously in this society, history (or their roots) has a way of reminding them who they are. A variety of themes inhabit this very entertaining novel in which there was rarely a dull moment.


Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 4 stars


An impressive debut of ambitious scope from someone so young! I won't describe it, as those above me have already done that so well. I really enjoyed this book and it's characters. While I think it has it's flaws, it still merits it's place on the list. I am curious to see how Smith's writing has evolved in her more recent works.


message 7: by Kristel (last edited Jun 20, 2020 09:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4265 comments Mod
"What is past is prologue". This is my second book by author Zadie Smith. This was the author's debut novel published in 2000. The author was born in North London in 1975. This story is first of all a story of families of mixed cultures. The one is Bangladesh and the other is an English man and his second wife of Jamaican descent but all people of North London. These families are connected in that Archie the British guy and Samad the Bangle served in WWII together. Samad has an arranged marriage and father's twins sons. Samad tries to live a good Moslem life and wants his children to follow the traditional ways. Archie marries Clara rather spontaneously after nearly committing suicide. Archie lives life by the toss of the coin. They have one daughter, Irie.
The title of the book White Teeth tells us that teeth will be a recurrent theme. Teeth are white in every human regardless of color of skin. Clara loses her buck teeth in an accident and has them replaced with white false teeth. Early on in the novel, the teeth are used in a racist comment by an elderly man when he tells the children that was the only way he could tell a black person was by the white teeth. Root canals (parts of teeth) speak of the roots of families. Molars are for grinding and canines rip.
The book also has the contrast between science (Chalfenism) and religion (Bowdenism). All of these many themes bring us to the climax of religion, tradition, and science meeting on December 31st 1992 where secrets long held are finally revealed.
"But surely to tell these tall tales and others like t hem would be to speed the myth, the wicked lie, that the past is always tense and the future, perfect."

Another observation of how my reading life interlaps, once again. I read Where Angels Fear to Tread by Forster this month. Ms Zadie Smith was strongly influenced by Forster and used this in the first section Archie 1974, 1945. "Every little trifle, for some reason, does seem incalculably important today and when you say of a thing that "nothing hangs on it" it sounds like blasphemy. There's never any knowing--how am I to put it?--which of our actions, which of our idlenesses won't have things hanging on it for ever." E. M. Forster, Where Angles Fear to Tread.

Rating 4.2 stars


message 8: by Pip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pip | 1483 comments I listened to an Audible version of a book I had first read almost 20 years ago. I wondered if I would enjoy it as much the second time round. Because the readers were able to provide the Jamaican and Bangladeshi accented English so well, it made me marvel again how good Smith's ear is for the varieties of English it presents. I read other reviews which complained about the coincidences, the farcical ending, and being unable to connect with the characters, Being familiar with the area of London where they lived, I relished the characters, particularly Hortense, Millat, Joyce and Samad. They were comical characters but nevertheless described with compassion. It is a book as relevant and entertaining now as it was then. Five stars.


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