White Teeth

White Teeth

A Novel

Book - 2000
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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 Teethis 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 café, a liberal public school, a sleek science institute. A winning debut in every respect,White Teethmarks the arrival of a wondrously talented writer who takes on the big themes--faith, race, gender, history, and culture--and triumphs.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2000.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780375501852
0375501851
Branch Call Number: SMIT
Characteristics: 448p. 24cm.

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e
emilyhcox
Mar 27, 2017

Richly complex novel touching on themes of familial bonds and their legacies through a kaleidoscope of imperfect characters.

m
Margush
Sep 13, 2016

Having read this book, I ended up reading everything I could find about its author, Zadie Smith. I wanted to know more about someone who has such an amazing linguistic talent and a great sense of British humour while describing serious matters. For the first time those raving reviews on its back cover didn't disappoint.

t
talltimt
Feb 11, 2016

What a superb debut (2000) novel! I want to call it hilarious, but it delivers no knee-slapping guffaws, just sustained satirical irony lampooning everything, East and West, from war and religion to the use of language, both academic (e.g. those “strange French men who think truth is a function of language”) and every-day (e.g. the ridiculous PC and bureaucratic manipulators of language: “Mr. De Winter, a Polish night watchman--that’s what he calls himself—his job title is Asset Security Coordinator)” to recombinant DNA technology. The story involves three families, often going back generations but focusing on the nuclear families that split apart like bombarded atoms: a middle-aged man of virtually no ability whatsoever who marries a 20-something, otherwise beautiful, half-breed Jamaican with no upper teeth; his best friend, a one-armed Pakistani waiter, his stupid shrew of a wife, and their twin sons who are as different as a London street thug turned religious zealot and a brilliant, Oxbridge-like, polite and charming would-be lawyer; and a “perfect” neo-hippy family of superior intellect, sophistication, and hospitality, the father being the gene manipulator and the mother a self-proclaimed, world-class gardener. As an example of her self-awareness and family insight, I quote: Mother: “But everybody loves [the obnoxious one of the twins], don’t they Oscar (her 5 y/o son)! It’s so hard not to, isn’t it, Oscar? We love him, don’t we, Oscar?” Oscar: “I hate him.” Mother: “Oh, Oscar, don’t say silly things.” That captures the relationship of these two family members as well as illustrating the mother’s blithe way of interacting with the world as she wants it to be, however false to reality. Still, we can’t help loving (most) of these idiots as they stumble through each others’ lives and laughing (or at least chuckling) all the way to an unfortunately unsatisfying conclusion. But how could the farcical story of such a weird mélange of boobs ever be concluded and remain within the scope of its satire? The book just simply has to stop, which is pretty much what it does, but we know that their story just keeps going . . . on . . . and on . . . and on.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 16, 2014

An extraordinary multicultural romp through the lives of three families living in London, England during the postwar years. Their intermingling is charged with humour, frustration, love, anger -- the complete panoply of human emotions. Smith, who has a Jamaican mother and an English father, lives in the very district of which she writes. May she continue to write with all the vibrant energy that she has brought to her debut.

l
labrys
Jun 21, 2014

While Zadie Smite writes well and her world is full of vibrant details, the chapters are short and the POV shifts quickly between characters lending the novel a fragmented feel. I find her essays much more compelling.

b
bookwormjeph
May 31, 2014

I really enjoyed this initially- for the first 150 pages or so and then became a little bored with it and it felt like it was overly long and focused on the trivial. It was funny, quirky and highlighted real life cultural issues in a sharp edged parody - but ultimately not enough to sustain my interest.

s
smilegirl24
Jul 12, 2012

This book pulled me in early and didn't release me until the very last page. An incredibly detailed, funny, and thoughtful analysis of the position of immigrants in England, White Teeth manages to approach a difficult subject with humor and without offensiveness. Highly reccomended.

s
shizuku_san
Jun 26, 2012

I was surprised at how much the author could trace political and social changes through bread! It was pretty interesting, although I felt like the connection between his research and his conclusion wasn't as clear as it could have been.

c
carmenweiss
Feb 03, 2012

I read this pretty quickly, but don't remember enjoying it all that much.

lilybelle Oct 01, 2009

A perfect novel on imperfect characters living in an imperfect world.

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Kristin_M_M Apr 06, 2016

Some secrets are permanent. In a vision, Irie has seen a time, a time not far from now, when roots won't matter any more because they can't because they musn't because they're too long and they're too tortuous and they're just buried too damn deep. She looks forward to it.

Kristin_M_M Apr 06, 2016

'It's Science.' Archie says Science the same way he says Modern, as if someone has lent him the words and made him swear not to break them. 'Science,' Archie repeats, handling it more firmly, 'is a different kettle of fish.'

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