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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White Teeth (2000)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,302201348 (3.75)2 / 625
  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. 42
    Brick Lane by Monica Ali (Booksloth)
  3. 20
    The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow (sduff222)
  4. 20
    Apples by Richard Milward (rory1000)
  5. 00
    The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie (ateolf)
  6. 00
    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (renardkitsune)
  7. 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)
  8. 00
    The Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen (rjuris)
  9. 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 (188)  Italian (4)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (3)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (201)
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
I found it a story of immigrants in the lower-middle class of London society, as they navigate through an unfamiliar culture, raise their families, and contend with that tension between immigrant parents and first-generation children. It is also a discussion of control - of family, of science, how the thread of hubris runs through all levels of society in various ways. The writing is easy and funny - I laughed out loud several times. But it also has its slow spots, where I wished the writer would move forward more quickly.

Many people n my book discussion group were upset about the treatment of twin boys separated by their father, in an attempt to control their lives. Others found the book good but clearly written before 9/11, when attitudes about immigrants changed. ( )
  ffortsa | Mar 7, 2019 |
These days, it feels to me like you make a devil's pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started... but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers - who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained.

Despite everything subsequent in Zadie's mad output, I still regard this a jewel. Following the dictum of Elvis Costello, Zadie distilled a lifetime into this first novel and had six months to write her second. I've said for over a decade that I am confident that people will read White Teeth one hundred years from now. I mean, narf, it has gen-mod lab mice, activists and AIDS, fry-ups and Jehovah's Witnesses, all the while speaking in accent about 'tangs and irie. Here's to aborted suicides, scooters and the marvels of our lives, whether we're bleseed with a twin, false teeth or neither. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I was looking forward to this novel, but I found it difficult going. The characters seemed to make bizarre decisions for no real reason, so the characters did not feel real to me. Also, I read in reviews about the humor of the book, but nothing seemed funny to me. ( )
  dcoward | Feb 21, 2019 |
Well Zadie Smith certainly knows how to write. Blazingly funny in spots, cool and perceptive in others. Almost clinical. And I guess that is the one problem with White Teeth. It simply went on far too long, for all the brilliance it contains. I certainly plan to read more of her work, but not for a bit, because forcing myself through this was at times exhausting, and that isn't the point is it? ( )
  TomMcGreevy | Feb 3, 2019 |
Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is a multi-layered, thought-provoking and extremely funny novel that tackles timely and sensitive topics with a rare, nuanced touch. Archie Jones is the archetypical Everyman-a working-class man with low ambitions and a seemingly simplistic view of the world. As White Teeth opens, he is on the edge of a successful suicide attempt when he is saved by a Halal Butcher who is more disturbed by Archie’s car blocking his deliveries than by the fact that he has discovered a man on the brink of death. Archie gains a new zest for life after being pulled back from the brink and is riding high on his new-found optimism when he encounters the enchanting Clara at a nearby party. She is a statuesque Jamaican woman who is also coincidentally seeking change and the two make quite an unusual pair. From their union the story blossoms to envelop other wonderfully imagined characters, each struggling in some way with the cultural clashes, traditions and identities that are enmeshed in an increasingly diverse British city. Smith addresses the juxtaposition of faith and science, cultural preservation and integration of immigrants, violent protest and tolerant acceptance. Although these topics can easily be rendered too heavy and didactic, Zadie Smith manages to provide incisive commentary on these important issues while also skillfully unfolding an addictive narrative with characters worth caring about. ( )
  jnmegan | Jan 20, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)

» 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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'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
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)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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