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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and warm; not flawless, but completely enjoyable.
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...
Published on 27 April 2001

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gets a bit tedious in the end
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...
Published on 14 Jun. 2012 by Dan Fante


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not that good, 12 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
Interesting characters, funny in places, very imaginative, but not as good as the hype led me to believe.
The book starts well and promises much with a very readable style and diverse and wonderful characters and histories. However, half way through when the Chalfen family are introduced, the plot gets lost, and the events become more and more ridiculous. The author makes the characters superficially interesting without delving any deeper. I found myself unable to understand or empathise with them (Archie was very flat, and why the sudden conversion of Millat from playboy to religious fanatic ?). The ending, and the final scene in particular, were muddled and anti-climactic.
Great start, loose middle and disappointing ending. Despite this, I think Zadie has talent and I hope the next book is better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Of the zeitgeist and an instant classic, 4 Nov. 2008
By 
N. Barker - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
White Teeth is a novel which encompasses all the richness, diversity and absurdity of modern life. Smith's characters fill the streets, shops, cafes, and houses of North London and, as each grapples with his or her own existential crisis, theirs is a `higgledy piggledy journey' made all the more difficult by engineering works on the Underground. This epic book may be stuffed full of character and anecdote but this detail is perfectly balanced and the many narrative threads remain in view, nothing is lost along the way. Just like the seemingly unlikely friendship between cerebral Samad and practical Archie, action and intellect are expertly combined by this writer whose style is effortlessly hip but infinitely intelligent. The narrative voice is wise about the world; she is an accomplished philosopher, scientist and historian but she is also an insider. The reader is at once entertained and enlightened, let in on a secret, granted access to the underground and the out of sight. Smith creates a world in which we are all inextricably bound up but there exists a tragic violence that threatens to alienate Smith's characters. The butcher Mo Hussein-Ishmael is frequently attacked in his shop and Samad and Alsana settle arguments by wrestling in the back garden, but the most powerful image is that of the violence done to the colonised by the coloniser, a violence Samad demonstrates when he writes his name in blood on Trafalgar square. Yet it is the comic impulse that prevails in Smith's portrayal of common experience understood through the known human landscapes in which she operates. At the end of the novel many of the characters are assembled together on a bus and one feels that Smith could take any random collection of commuters and make them the cast of one of her novels.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A weak novel which appears stylish, 3 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
This really is an extraordinary novel, in that it has achieved such a huge level of hype, critical acclaim and has divided amazon readers into opposing love it / hate it camps.
Actually, I didn't loathe the book; the book didn't manage to evoke an emotion of that strength. I found it all a bit insipid and dull, to be honest. Some people have complained about the rambling length but I think a vast length was fitting for a novel of this ambition and considering her vast cast of characters. Characters were the problem. I didn't particularly like or care about any of them. They were merely representations from different races, without flesh and blood and life. It was easy to observe them but hard to really become involved with them. And, though I'm white, I've grown up in a multi-cultural family, & I found some of the Asians very stereotyped: the Bangledeshi women reminded me of characters off Eastenders. I also found the author's cynicism about religion rather narrow, perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of the book considering her themes. She found it impossible to present any religion without portraying it as an emotional crutch. I would like more detachment from the author here. I am not a Bible-basher or even a believer, but having grown up with both CHristians and HIndus, I think it is possible to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of different faiths without reducing the narrative into a rather childish 'all god-types are nutters'which is what Zadie does, and dully.
The book's strength is the authorial confidence. People have noted the weak research, inaccuracies and historial loop holes (maybe they don't matter that much anyway) but I think the author is actually good at pretending to write as though she knows what she is talking about. She has courage and control; she has managed to write a book that somehow looks good, that reads as if it's a classic, that reads as if it's actually saying a lot, when it doesn't. It's partly due to the skill of her prose, partly because of the author's 'serious' young-Rushdie style image, though I actually think the book owes a greater debt to Amis than Rushdie.
On the other hand, books I prefered include 'CHocolat' by Joanne Harris, also nominated for last year's Whitbread, which works in reverse - a literary novel which appears light-hearted (particularly with the awful sugary film adaptation) but which actually explores some fascinating themes, such as motherhood, religion, repression - some themes which Zadie touched on but never manages to explore with any depth in the way Harris does.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I've been bitten, 11 Jun. 2007
By 
Ms. Sv Lewis-morgan "Ex-pat English bookworm" (Thueringia, Germany) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
This book sat on my shelf for ages (as another reviewer commented) before I picked it up due to having nothing else to read. The cover didn't appeal, and the hype was off-putting. But from page 1 I was hooked by the individual style of the author. I found some of the characterisation a bit shallow and perhaps sometimes the style forced its way above the plot rather too obviously, but the uniqueness kept me reading right to the end. In the final pages she answered some questions that were almost forgotten to provide a neat ending and I thoroughly enjoyed the book despite my minor quibbles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for a twenty four year old, 20 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
OK, it's a bit precocious, but it's that by definition. She's a kid. The thing is extremely well written - the gleeful postcards to Archie from his Norwegian nemesis, Horst Ibelgaufts, for example are full of style and wit - and the story isn't bad at all. As sweeping epics go, I found it a good read. The problem with writing something like this at her age is that most of your readership will never be rational or objective about the achievement...I thought it was an excellent opening shot, confidently written and, lets hope, the first of many. I also think it would make for some great TV.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, ambitious but over-hyped first novel, 14 Jan. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
White Teeth is worth a few hours of any reader's time, but nobody should expect the life-transforming experience suggested by the literary reviews and the media attention. The book is ambitious, and as the author is so young, it's perhaps carping to say that it underachieves, but on balance I think Zadie Smith may be a prospect for the future.
The book would certainly have benefited from tougher editing. There is a great deal of redundant repetition, and the ending is frankly weak; the tone of the authorial voice wavers all over the place, and is too much in thrall to the example of Martin Amis; strong characters appear but drift out of the story without explanation, and the gestures in the direction of magical realism feel very rote. This said, many of these are typical faults of a young writer.
On the plus side, the book reads very easily (not something to be despised) and many readers will feel that Smith has successfully represented aspects of British life (young London-based Asian and Afro-Caribbean English culture) which have had no high-profile voice hitherto. The book also passes the laugh-out-loud test.
It would be sad if any of Smith's potential readers end up not being able to see White Teeth clearly for the hype; there's a strong feeling that the more gushing reviewers have been reviewing the author rather than the book, and it's in danger of becoming this year's hip literary accessory; talked about but not actually read with any attention.
In the end, this is a perfectly competent first novel which has stood out in an uninspiring year. I look forward to reading Zadie Smith's second book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 'too long' novel about race and identity, 11 Mar. 2002
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
This is an enthusiastic attempt at a multi-racial, inter-family tale spanning three generations. The author claims that the work is not about race, but its title and the continual juxtaposition of characters from different ethnic backgrounds (eg, white husband, black wife; white Jewish family, Bangladeshi Moslem family, mixed race atheist/lapsed Jehovah Witness family) frankly make this hard to believe. That classic exam question 'Compare and contrast ...' simply glares from the pages.
The lengthy plot is ambitious in the way it attempts to draw the characters together, but I was unconvinced by the clumsy appearance of the white middle class Chalfen family and the extremely contrived ending to the novel. Even though I am a quick reader I found White Teeth rather long and struggled to complete it. I think a cut down version with fewer minor characters and a simpler plot would be more successful.
Overall, I preferred the first half of the book which relates the lives of hapless Archie Jones, sulky Samad Iqbal and their respective wives. As the focus of the narrative shifts on to their children, the style of language changes and the reader seems to be confronted with stereotypes of irritating hormonal teenagers.
For me, the main theme of White Teeth was the issue of individual and group identity, and this was explored very effectively in the many scenarios that unfolded throughout the novel.
White Teeth is worth a read, and makes interesting discussion matter, but I do not believe it to be worth the critical acclaim with which it has been accompanied.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Got bored....must admit, 13 Dec. 2002
By 
C. Kilvington (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
This is one of those books that'd be so much better if it was a third shorter. And that's just about where I finished it: a third from the end.
If you like character portraits though, this might be one for you. The story revolves around a number of characters and their relationships with each other. It deals with race, marriage, kids and the like. It also gives an interesting portrayal of the variety that is London.
But that's about it.
For my liking, the characters were described in too much detail. We get to know everything from how people met to their favourite colour and blood group, it seems. And although this is not such a travesty, the plot line does slow because of it - you start looking behind the sofa to find it again.
All this said, ZS does have a lovely writing style. No long show-off words for the sake of it. Just clear, east-to-read prose, which is nice. It's just too blinking long!
If you've got more reading stamina than me though and like books about people and their cultures, feel feel to disagree. The thousands of people reading it on the London Underground can't all be wrong. Can they?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars rollocking good read, 1 Mar. 2012
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
White Teeth starts out laugh-aloud funny; Smith (at times) can equal John Kennedy Toole's classic 'Confederacy of Dunces' (transposed to Cricklewood from New Orleans). Her dialogue is superb ; as she vividly renders Jamaican patois or Bengali English you can almost 'hear' the characters.
The story concerns a mild-mannered white guy and his young Jamaican second wife. Equally important are his Bengali best friend who served with him in WW2 and his wife, and the children of both couples. Midway through we encounter the left wing, middle class intellectual Jewish family and their lives all intertwine...
Until the last chapter I felt that sections of the book- notably the war episode- were irrelevant, but the whole huge work does tie up at the end.
I was irritated at the factually incorrect depiction of Jehovah's Witnesses; they do not go in for candles or crucifixes, they dont publish the Watchtower locally (it's all organized by 'head office' in USA) and they never attend rallies or sing C of E hymns.
It's well written and entertaining- but not a classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't make me care enough, 26 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
This book's theme is race and identity. All races share the same white teeth, whatever the skin colour - hence the title.

The book follows a few plotlines which eventually come together.It is very different to most other novels in its format. With lots of flitting between past and present, the plot became confusing and disjointed. My main problem was that I just couldn't engage enough with the main characters, despite being an ethnic minority myself. It was difficult to care about what I would find out and what would happen to them.

At times, the book was a struggle to get through. When I finished, I felt that much could have been left out for a more enjoyable reading experience. Yet its saving grace is the humour and charismatic callousness the author uses in writing to depict an accurate picture of the multi-ethnic modern London. This at least gives some food for thought.

Not a bad read, but not a great one either.
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White Teeth
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Paperback - 25 Jan. 2001)
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