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White Teeth by Zadie Smith
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White Teeth (2000)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,416176276 (3.74)2 / 573
  1. 61
    Small Island by Andrea Levy (CVBell)
    CVBell: Like White Teeth, Small Island illuminates the Caribbean immigrant experience in England, and like Zadie Smith, Levy is a major talent.
  2. 20
    Apples by Richard Milward (rory1000)
  3. 42
    Brick Lane by Monica Ali (Booksloth)
  4. 20
    The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow (sduff222)
  5. 00
    The Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen (rjuris)
  6. 11
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Readers will enjoy White Teeth and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand for their character development and humor, along with lighthearted treatment of serious topics such as race relations, religious fanaticism, self-understanding, and similar aspects of modern English life.… (more)
  7. 02
    A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards (vimandvigor)
    vimandvigor: multi-ethnic cast of characters; set in London; literary writing style.
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English (166)  Italian (4)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  All (176)
Showing 1-5 of 166 (next | show all)
I'm not even going to attempt to describe the plot, but this was excellent - great characters, humorous in a dry, understated way and with lots to say about race and identity and what motivates us. ( )
  pgchuis | Mar 24, 2017 |
Fast & furious - careering from gripping character to obnoxious character to grippingly mundane and on to wholly outlandish scenario - the vivid freshness of Smith's writing eclipses concerns with the at times over description. Whether she is the first great literary discovery of the 21st Century remains to be seen in future work, however, at this moment there's nobody else writing with such vigour and passion as well as telling a really marvellous story. ( )
  tommi180744 | Feb 28, 2017 |
Liked it in the beginning. Reader was excellent.

On New Year's morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie's car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
A really enjoyable book, filled with loveable losers. Reading in a post-7/7 London, it seems amazing that this was actually written pre-9/11 as the passages about a rather-too-political Muslim seem all too relevant today. The story builds and builds but the pay-off wasn't quite satisfying enough for my tastes, but I ripped through this happily. ( )
  alexrichman | Jan 6, 2017 |
I first read this book in 2000 after seeing and loving the first half of the story on Masterpiece Theatre. I picked it up for a re-read between Christmas and New Year's, 2016, as I had tickets to see the author speak the following January. I had forgotten what a perfect New Year's read this is. I was also amazed at how this novel managed to capture both some of the prevailing concerns of its time (yes, we were really that concerned with cloning and the end of the world!) and catch a glimpse of what would become the defining concern of the next two decades, at least: the Muslim experience, the immigrant experience, the non-white experience, and the changing face of western nations. Smith is lauded for capturing her native London accurately, but sixteen years on, after recent terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, and Germany coupled with the rise of Marine Le Pen, Brexit, and the Donald Trump victory, the book resonates even more broadly. This novel might well be to the early years of our century what "The Great Gatsby" is to the 1920s, and Smith does a phenomenal job of embodying Tolstoy's adage that "each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" and extending it to the intricacies of each family member in her world. And with just a touch of Dickens, she ties all the loose ends of all these lives together. Brilliant. ( )
  quaintlittlehead | Dec 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 166 (next | show all)
I enjoyed it though my other book group members did not. A bit off and lots of black humor.
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Zadieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Akura, LynnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brinkman, SophieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elden, Willem vanContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grimaldi, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'What's past is prologue'
-- The Tempest, Act II, scene i
In this wrought-iron world of criss-cross cause and effect, could it be that the hidden throb I stole from them did not affect their future?
-- Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Dedication
To my mother and my father
And for Jimmi Rahman
First words
Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway. At 06.27 hours on 1 January 1975, Alfred Archibald Jones was dressed in corduroy and sat in a fume-filled Cavalier Musketeer Estate face down on the steering wheel, hoping the judgment would not be too heavy upon him.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375703861, Paperback)

Epic in scale and intimate in approach, White Teeth is a formidably ambitious debut. First novelist Zadie Smith takes on race, sex, class, history, and the minefield of gender politics, and such is her wit and inventiveness that these weighty subjects seem effortlessly light. She also has an impressive geographical range, guiding the reader from Jamaica to Turkey to Bangladesh and back again.

Still, the book's home base is a scrubby North London borough, where we encounter Smith's unlikely heroes: prevaricating Archie Jones and intemperate Samad Iqbal, who served together in the so-called Buggered Battalion during World War II. In the ensuing decades, both have gone forth and multiplied: Archie marries beautiful, bucktoothed Clara--who's on the run from her Jehovah's Witness mother--and fathers a daughter. Samad marries stroppy Alsana, who gives birth to twin sons. Here is multiculturalism in its most elemental form: "Children with first and last names on a direct collision course. Names that secrete within them mass exodus, cramped boats and planes, cold arrivals, medical checks."

Big questions demand boldly drawn characters. Zadie Smith's aren't heroic, just real: warm, funny, misguided, and entirely familiar. Reading their conversations is like eavesdropping. Even a simple exchange between Alsana and Clara about their pregnancies has a comical ring of truth: "A woman has to have the private things--a husband needn't be involved in body business, in a lady's... parts." And the men, of course, have their own involvement in bodily functions:

The deal was this: on January 1, 1980, like a New Year dieter who gives up cheese on the condition that he can have chocolate, Samad gave up masturbation so that he might drink. It was a deal, a business proposition, that he had made with God: Samad being the party of the first part, God being the sleeping partner. And since that day Samad had enjoyed relative spiritual peace and many a frothy Guinness with Archibald Jones; he had even developed the habit of taking his last gulp looking up at the sky like a Christian, thinking: I'm basically a good man.
Not all of White Teeth is so amusingly carnal. The mixed blessings of assimilation, for example, are an ongoing torture for Samad as he watches his sons grow up. "They have both lost their way," he grumbles. "Strayed so far from what I had intended for them. No doubt they will both marry white women called Sheila and put me in an early grave." These classic immigrant fears--of dilution and disappearance--are no laughing matter. But in the end, they're exactly what gives White Teeth its lasting power and undeniable bite. --Eithne Farry

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

From the Publisher: On New Year's morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie-working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt-is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie's car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel. Epic and intimate, hilarious and poignant, White Teeth is the story of two North London families-one headed by Archie, the other by Archie's best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie (the Jamaican word for "no problem"). Samad-devoutly Muslim, hopelessly "foreign"-weds the feisty and always suspicious Alsana in a prearranged union. They have twin sons named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-militant Muslim and the other an insufferable science nerd. The riotous and tortured histories of the Joneses and the Iqbals are fundamentally intertwined, capturing an empire's worth of cultural identity, history, and hope. Zadie Smith's dazzling first novel plays out its bounding, vibrant course in a Jamaican hair salon in North London, an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square, an Irish poolroom turned immigrant cafe, a liberal public school, a sleek science institute. A winning debut in every respect, White Teeth marks the arrival of a wondrously talented writer who takes on the big themes-faith, race, gender, history, and culture-and triumphs.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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