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on 16 May 2017
White Teeth is an expansive and detailed attempt to describe the social chaos that blossoms at the bridging of generational, national and cultural mindsets.

The book does many things well. Smith has an ear for dialogue and accent, and she finesses the observational humour. Her cast of characters is varied and nearly every one of them comes off as a fully flesh and blood human being and correct representation of cultural mindsets. Real Indian, Jamaican and Bangladeshi diaspora are recreated here - not the imagined Indian, Jamaican and Bangladeshi diaspora of white writers too reluctant to put in the requisite amount of research for getting the most inconsequential details right.

However, I struggle to genuinely care about the fate of most of these characters. Smith, herself, shows detached superiority for every character except the one that she is blatantly based upon. She over defines every other character within the novel to the extent that their actions are predictable. Smith, displays contempt for each character’s worldview, but is refrains from articulating her own, which is simply the absence of adherence to any such worldview. It is an effective writing technique, but grows tiresome in such an expansive novel.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It neared greatness in many ways – witty and funny dialogue, quirky characters, rich and creative family histories. However, holistically the book fell far short of greatness. The plot was artificial, the book is rife with linguistic anachronisms and above all I couldn’t empathise with the characters.

However, the would-be 2-star is edged to a 3-star simply because the book is genuinely very funny. I haven’t come across many other funny female authors of contemporary literary fiction - there is almost a good joke on every page of the 500+ page novel, the satire is perfected and there is a real human warmth that exudes from the novel.

If you found this review helpful, please do rate it as helpful – really helps me out!
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on 27 April 2001
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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on 14 March 2017
What an epic book by Zadie Smith. The story line tries to do so much and cover a huge time span and I felt like the story really didn't go anywhere. It was difficult to read at times but I found myself enjoying the second half much more than the first, as the younger, second generation of characters were more well rounded and easier to understand. The story is very funny and doesn't take itself too seriously which is refreshing even as it covers issues like colonialism and the struggle to find identity in a foreign culture. Overall, a light but long read.
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on 23 October 2015
I loved the start of this book, it was well written and quirky. Sadly it then seemed to drone on and on going nowhere and I lost interest in the characters. I rarely give up on a book, but I did with this. After all the hype, I was disappointed. I'm just glad I bought it from a charity shop, so at least I only spent £1 on it and my money will do some good!
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on 13 May 2014
This was an ok read but I didn't love it unfortunately. The first part of the book is based in wartime and follows two young soldiers. The rest of the book follows their life after the war - marriage and children, with a real focus on the cultural aspects of living in London as an immigrant. For the rest of the book, the children become the main characters. The book is best described as an observational study of the lives of these two families. The author involves really important issues throughout the narrative, cultural differences, religion, terrorism, drugs, genetics etc. But for much of the book, it felt as though there was a lack of plot and until the final ten pages, the beginning appeared to have no real connection to the rest. I guess, perhaps I would have enjoyed White Teeth more if it had been shorter or perhaps I simply expected too much from such a highly acclaimed novel.
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on 6 August 2014
After all the rave reviews I was looking forward to reading this book however I almost never finished it. It wasn't an enjoyable read and the most significant events of the story were all summed up in the last couple of pages of a book, I finished the book almost confused about what had just happened as the last few pages were very rushed whereas the first 90% of the book was very long winded and a bit boring at times.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 March 2012
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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on 3 December 2015
All right; the occasional snappy writing livens up what is otherwise a vastly over-rated book.
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on 18 July 2017
I laughed out loud several times when I was reading this excellent book. I've only given it four stars though because I thought that it was much longer than it should have been and really felt that the ending was disappointing.
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on 17 August 2010
I (like others) had heard all the extremely high praise of this novel and although it was a while when it was first published, I thought I'd tackle this long, thick novel when I had the time to do so and because I believed the good reviews about it, I wanted to save this novel and indulge in the fabulous writing.

As I read the first few chapters, I was glad that I'd waited to enjoy a good book. I instantly fell in love with most of the characters and thought I was reading something very special. However as I began to read more chapters (that I felt in my opinion were overly long and dragged on), I began to feel duped that I had believed the hype, high praise and good reviews I'd read.

For a start, I've never read a book that had no synopsis inside or outside of the book. In fact it solely relied on the quoted reviews to sell the book. But then again, I'm not surprised. It is very difficult to say what this novel is about in an easy way. It goes off on many tangents, strays from the point and is unnecessarily long. It feels as if Ms. Smith was given a brief from her agent to write a novel that was over 500 pages long and because she ran out of ideas, decided to fill it with newspaper clippings, lots of waffle and unnecessary pages of not much. If she had stuck to cutting the novel by half, concentrated on the characters by adding more depth to their personalities and their woes, I might have thought the novel was a bit more plausible.

It took me a month to read this novel and that was only because it was like extracting teeth; Painful, annoying and extremely hard work. It was too long and very dissapointing. It failed to live up to the hype and certainly my expectations.
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