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White Teeth (2000)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,889214363 (3.74)2 / 662
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. 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 (197)  Spanish (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (211)
Showing 1-5 of 197 (next | show all)
Picked this up while on holidays a few years back. Was one of the few english language books on offer in a tiny shop in rural Sweden, so I didn't really know what to expect from it. Completely loved it - totally engrossing and wonderfully written. One of my favourite surprise reads. ( )
  misterebby | Jul 5, 2020 |
A brilliant first novel. ( )
  hcubic | Jun 20, 2020 |
"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 ( )
  Kristelh | Jun 20, 2020 |
5
  kristi_test_02 | Jun 16, 2020 |
5
  kristi_test_02 | Jun 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 197 (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

Belongs to Publisher Series

Gli Oscar Mondadori (Piccola biblioteca Oscar, 269)
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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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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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