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White Teeth Paperback – 27 Jan 2000

287 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd; First Edition edition (27 Jan. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 024113997X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241139974
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 0.3 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,187,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975. She is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man and On Beauty, and of a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Epic in scale and intimate in approach, White Teeth is an ambitious novel. Genetics, eugenics, gender, race, class and history are the book's themes but Zadie Smith is gifted with the wit and inventiveness to make these weighty ideas seem effortlessly light.

The story travels through Jamaica, Turkey, Bangladesh and India but ends up in a scrubby North London borough, home of the book's two unlikely heroes: prevaricating Archie Jones and intemperate Samad Iqbal. They met in the Second World War, as part of a "Buggered Battalion" and have been best friends ever since. Archie marries beautiful, buck-toothed Clara, who's on the run from her Jehovah's Witness mother, and they have a daughter, Irie. Samad marries stroppy Alsana and they have twin sons: "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. A simple scene, Alsana and Clara chatting about their pregnancies in the park: "A woman has to have the private things--a husband needn't be involved in body business, in a lady's ... parts."

Samad's rant about his sons--"They have both lost their way. 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--acutely displays "the immigrant fears--dissolution, disappearance" but it also gets to the very heart of Samad.

White Teeth is a joy to read. It teems with life and exuberence and has enough cleverness and irreverent seriousness to give it bite. --Eithne Farry


She is . . . a George Eliot of multi-culturalism (Daily Telegraph)

The first publishing sensation of the millennium (Observer)

White Teeth reflects a new generation (Guardian)

[Zadie Smith] is one of the prominent voices of her generation

(Sunday Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Amid all the hype- and counter-hype....the precocity of the author, accusations of 'emperor's new clothes'etc I was expecting this book to be kind of irritating. And to my amazement it wasn't irritating at all, in fact it was completely and utterly lovable. Most of the criticisms I have read seem fair - the rather too artificially constructed plot, inaccuracies or linguistic anachronisms, characters who are sometimes difficult to care for about... However, this didn't interfere with my enjoyment of this brilliant book. The observation is so original, the satire so spot-on, and above all the book has a real warmth: Smith actually seems to like her characters and to enjoy being in their company, something which sets her apart from writers like Rushdie or Kureishi who she is often compared to. The result is, of course, that the reader enjoys it too. There is a good joke on nearly every page, which is quite an achievement for a 540 page novel. Highly recommended.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dan Fante on 14 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think the people giving this one star are very harsh. There are some dreadful books out there and this isn't dreadful by any stretch of the imagination. It's a funny book and, despite its ambitious scope, a pretty readable one at that. I just found it a bit pointless in the end though. The characters, with the exception of Irie, are just too one-dimensional for me and there's barely anything likeable about any of them either. Perhaps you could argue this reflects reality but it just made me stop caring about the book about 150 pages before the end. Therein lies another problem - it's just too long to keep you interested once it becomes obvious that the novel isn't really going anywhere. For a first novel it's a great effort and there is much to recommend about it (the aforementioned ambition and the humour) but it never quite manages to live up to the hype. It took me about 10 years to get around to reading it and I don't really feel like I was missing out on that much.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
This massive first novel is both wildly ambitious and desperately in need of the hand of an assured editor. Smith certainly isn't afraid to stir such minor topics as race, colonialism, class, gender, culture, religion, fate, sexuality, history and science into her melting pot examination of identity, and as such, it's one of those books whose plot cannot be succinctly outlined. In the broadest possible terms, the book revolves around Archie and Samad, an Englishman and Bangladeshi respectively, who are in the same tank unit in World War II. After spending a goodly chunk of time on their wartime experience, the book covers both the next 45 years of their lives (lengthy stops are made in the late '60s, '70s, and '80s), and with the past (flashbacks are made to mid-19th century India and Jamaica). The true protagonists are Archie's daughter Irie, and Samad's twin sons, Millat and Majid. And the central theme of the book is their struggle for identity, which is sometimes unconscious and sometimes very purposeful.
One of the book's main flaws is that in addition to these five major characters, there are the mothers of each, and a veritable wagonload of important supporting characters, including a third family that appears well into the book. There's a lot of coming and going and coming, and on and on as characters assume central importance for ten pages, only to disappear for two-hundred. Smith is trying to weave a very complicated web (many critics call this aspect of the book "Dickensian"), but in doing so, the transitions become awfully jarring, and very often, annoying. A second major issue is that the characters are all types of one sort or another. Smith sets them in motion in order to comment on her grab-bag of issues, but never quite gives them enough individuality or humanity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Coote on 26 May 2007
Format: Paperback
When reviewing this book (or any other) it is best to look first at the `aims and claims' of the author. If the writer's stated aim had been - or if she had claimed that she had achieved - a penetrative insight into the human soul, then White Teeth would be considered a failure. If, however, the aim and claim had been a rumbustious, Dickensian take on multicultural London, then the objective has certainly been achieved. After all, Zadie Smith describes herself as a comic novelist.
A lot of the criticism of this book has really been criticism of the hype, for which the author cannot be blamed. In terms of the text, I would describe it as organic rather than messy and the lack of editing makes it more honest and endearing. This was a first (published) novel from a very young woman and is a mildly satirical but basically warm-hearted approach to a favourite subject of more downbeat social realist authors and playwrights. White Teeth is not perhaps great literature, parts are contrived, and undoubtedly Zadie was overly ambitious, but it sticks in the mind and stimulates discussion, and that is positive.
The most important achievement of Zadie Smith with White Teeth was to project an alternative and unpalatable reality for some: that multiculturalism, in the main, works rather well and that people from different backgrounds, in general, get on. I lived in a directly comparable `troubled' inner city suburb for fifty years until 2003 and, sadly for the idealistically opposed among us, have to report that the overwhelming majority of individuals and families are interested only in peaceful co-existence. If they weren't, London would be a bloodbath - and it isn't.
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