Sunday, May 27, 2007

'White Teeth'

by Zadie Smith

WINNER of the Whitbread Award - First Novel, 2000

Fiction/Literary, pub. 2000
Penguin UK, pb, 536 p.

(Book #19 for 2007, Book #3 for the Chunkster Challenge, Book #4 for the TBR Challenge)
One of the most talked about fictional debuts of recent years, White Teeth is a funny, generous, big-hearted novel, adored by critics and readers alike. Dealing – among many other things – with friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, one brown mouse, and the tricky way the past has of coming back and biting you on the ankle, it is a life-affirming, riotous must-read of a book.
I always seem to enjoy reading about immigrant experiences and cultural differences and that was the case with this book as well. I think this quote from TIME says it well: “Cultures don't clash in Zadie Smith's books. They arm wrestle, get in one another's faces and climb into one another's beds.”
I can see why it was widely praised as a first novel being so epic in scope but I did find it a bit too long, especially through the middle. Perhaps it was just a little too ambitious? But while I didn’t really like the characters themselves, I kept coming back to the book to read more and there were several moments of humour throughout so it ended up being a fairly enjoyable read. All in all, an interesting commentary on race relations in modern-day Britain.

My Rating: 3.5/5
‘Where I come from,’ said Archie, ‘a bloke likes to get to know a girl before he marries her.’
‘Where you come from it is customary to boil vegetables until they fall apart. This does not mean,’ said Samad tersely, ‘that it is a good idea.’


  1. I love the quote! I think I should print it out and put it somewhere noticeable! Sounds like a good book, I think I will give it a try!

  2. Glad you enjoyed the humour. One of my favourite quotes/bits was how Samad imagines wearing a sign to work at the restaurant announcing: "I am not a waiter. I have been a student, a scientist, a soldier." It reminds me sometimes of my situation at work and also Sartre's idea of bad faith. You've sourced some good quotes -loved what TIME had to say.

  3. I have yet to read White Teeth because of the varied (and often negative) reviews I've read. I have it, will read it, but just haven't yet. Glad to see that you were pleased with it.

    And I LOVE your 3-column layout. Where did you get it? Do you mind my asking? Do it yourself or yoink some code?

  4. Helen,
    Hi. Thanks for stopping by. I knew I had to make a note of that quote. Makes me chuckle everytime I read it!

    Definitely. I think without those bits of wit and humour sprinkled throughout, it would've been much tougher to get through.

    I'd had it for a few years but I'm glad I finally made myself read it. I do think it was worth the time spent on it.
    As for the 3-column layout, of course I don't mind you asking. I hunted up some html help online and mainly followed these instructions and then tweaked the width and margins a bit. I was kinda proud of myself for doing it without H's help. :P

  5. I have been meaning to read this for years now - mostly, I've been suspicious of it because it is one of those books that got a lot of praise without anyone being specific as to just why it was so wonderful and I don't tend to trust the press! But what you've said has made me a little more interested - I'm almost sure I'll get round to it some time in the future!

  6. That is a great quote. I've been trying to decide whether to read this one or Smith's "On Beauty" first, now I think I'm leaning toward 'On Beauty'. Thanks.

  7. booktraveller,
    I know what you mean. I'm a little suspicious too when a book is over-hyped. I think part of it was also because she wrote it while still quite young. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it if/when you get to it.

    Glad to help. :P

  8. Fun quote :-)
    I adore White Teeth

  9. Cathrine,
    I remembered that you'd liked it while I was reading it. I'm glad I finally got around to it.

  10. Definitely a fab quote. I have yet to read White Teeth, but I'm pretty sure I have a copy and I buried it.

  11. I'm quite curious about this one. About Zadie Smith in general, actually. People have told me that On Beauty is better, though. Like kookiejar said, your review helped me decide which one to start with, so thanks!

  12. Bookfool,
    Someday it'll be there when you want to read it. I avoided it for a long time but I'm glad I finally got around to it.

    I've heard so many good things about On Beauty but I'm really trying to read the books I already own before buying more, especially by the same author. Hopefully I'll get to On Beauty someday.

  13. I've had this one in my TBR pile for way too long, as well as On Beauty. I need to get to one or the other soon!

  14. Dewey,
    Hi. Thanks for stopping by. I have The Autograph Man around here somewhere but it seemed to get rather bad reviews so who knows when I'll ever get around to it.

  15. I just bought this book at the used bookstore the other week and haven't gotten to it yet. Glad you found me via the Blogroll Game!

  16. Hi Camille.
    Thanks for stopping by here. I hope you enjoy White Teeth when you get around to reading it.


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