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White Teeth (2000)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
12,389222373 (3.74)2 / 677
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)
  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. 52
    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. 12
    A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards (vimandvigor)
    vimandvigor: multi-ethnic cast of characters; set in London; literary writing style.
1990s (147)
hopes (29)
To Read (143)
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English (208)  Spanish (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (222)
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
This book looks at the members of three interconnected families, from the fathers' experiences in World War II to the children's feelings about their place in the coming millennium.

First off, it took me more than a year to read this book. I was determined to finish it, but that timeline gives you a sense of how I felt about it.

Much of the book felt dated, as it was so firmly grounded in its mid to late 1990s fear of the approaching millennium and what new frontiers were being made in science (DNA mapping, cloning, etc.). Science and religion butt heads in this book, yet it never feels like Smith is making a point about either as both has proponents who are ridiculous in their own way. Likewise, race and colonialism are oft-mentioned but never really with any kind of conclusion beyond an observation that they exist.

Basically all of the characters are unlikable; Irie and to a lesser extent Joshua are the only ones I ever felt some interest in their happenings. Every single character seems to have the same voice (minus the dialect for dialogue) as an ever-present narrator carries the tone. I'm not sure that Smith really has the best grasp on tackling the cultures she portrays when it comes to the Iqbal family and their associates (primarily all Muslim and mostly Bangladeshi).

After plodding through pages and pages of essentially nothing occurring, Smith starts drumming up tension for a big happening on New Year's Eve. And yet that fizzles out to nothing and she leaves the reader with a quick page or two summary of the remainder of these characters' lives. In the end, this book felt like a lot of "work" for me with no payoff. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Sep 14, 2021 |
Despite that this was the sort of sprawling family saga that I usually dislike, it was breezy and lighthearted, which made it much more enjoyable for me, even as it broached some serious themes, including “the immigrant experience,” self-identity, privilege and poverty, science vs religion. Mostly, though, I felt that it was a rather light-hearted romp, full of characters who were presented in a way that made me feel affectionate towards them even though, objectively, some of them should have been quite dislikable. It struck me as sprawling and messy, but that’s how life is. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 24, 2021 |
This book needed a better editor! The story was good, but it all went on way too long, and the end was silly. I listened to it on tape rather than reading it, I don't know if that influenced me, but I just got tired about 2/3 of the way through and actually thought about quitting it. ( )
1 vote emrsalgado | Jul 23, 2021 |
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000) ( )
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
A novel is a lot of things, but interpreted philosophically, “White Teeth” is a rebuttal to the idea that Europe is being invaded by unwholesome immigrants and that white men are doomed. That the one group is called KEVIN is perfect, and I don’t think it’s naive; it’s just that they’re kids, just stupid kids who make mistakes and feel alienated from people. Kids are always getting on the news…. The way religion is presented—and juxtaposed—is really beautiful, and I think that the ending is especially beautiful, especially for a book with a such a meandering, quotidian plot….

We all have white teeth.
  goosecap | Jul 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (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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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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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.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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