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White Teeth | [Zadie Smith]

White Teeth

Archie's life has disintegrated. Fresh from a dead marriage, middle-aged Archie stretches out a vacuum hose, seals up his car and prepares to die. But unbeknownst to him, his darkest hour is also his luckiest day. With the opening of a butcher's shop, his life is saved and soon he is on his way to beginning a new life with a young Jamaican woman looking for the last man on earth.
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Publisher's Summary

Archie's life has disintegrated. Fresh from a dead marriage, middle-aged Archie stretches out a vacuum hose, seals up his car and prepares to die. But unbeknownst to him, his darkest hour is also his luckiest day. With the opening of a butcher's shop, his life is saved, and soon he is on his way to beginning a new life with a young Jamaican woman looking for the last man on earth.

Drawing you in with the immediacy of her tantalizing wit, Zadie Smith sets herself apart as a defining voice of contemporary literature. Her internationally acclaimed novel boldly and humorously bridges three London families across a cultural and generational divide.

©2000 Zadie Smith; (P)2001 Recorded Books

What the Critics Say

"The scrambled, heterogeneous sprawl of mixed-race and immigrant family life in gritty London nearly overflows the bounds of this stunning, polymathic debut novel." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (426 )
5 star
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3.9 (212 )
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3 star
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Story
4.1 (208 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    coco San Francisco, CA, United States 02-12-13
    coco San Francisco, CA, United States 02-12-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Super !!"

    I loved the story, the narrator was fantastic at accents and this was a very enjoyable performance all together

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel COLUMBUS, OH, United States 09-14-12
    Rachel COLUMBUS, OH, United States 09-14-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clever, but crude"

    I was unable to finish reading this book, so can not give an overall view of it. But I CAN say why I gave up on it.

    Although I found the characters to be interesting and the narrative to be clever and funny, the constant crudity and obscenities grated on me. If crudity and obscenities bother you, this is NOT the book for you. If you like politically incorrect social satire, and don't mind a bit of crudity, I think you might like this book. :)

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-29-11
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-29-11 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Smart, Catch-22-esque"

    A smart, hilarious, and surprisingly knowing novel for such a young author (who belongs to my own generation), White Teeth is one of my favorite books. Beginning with the absurd failed suicide of a haplessly indecisive middle-aged Englishman named Archie, who reminds me a little of Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then moving on to his friend Samad, a hilariously self-important, argumentative Bengali (whose "slapping your salami" discussion had me snorting with laughter and trying not to drive off the road), the story eventually comes to encompass the key members of three colorfully fractious families, across several generations.

    This book is similar to Joseph Heller's Catch-22 in that it uses exaggerated characters and absurd situations to make its point. But, in my opinion, Smith writes with a keen eye for satire and an effortless authority that suggests much personal experience with born-again Jamaican grandmothers, irascible Indian housewives, white hippie-scientists with overly progressive parenting styles, and other figures that populate multicultural, urban Britain. Some readers might fault her for being a little too cynical with her characters, who are put into caricature boxes that they never quite manage to escape, or a little too self-indulgent (which I thought was true in spots) but, overall, I enjoyed her wit and felt that it was rooted in compassion, offering surprisingly mature insights into culture clashes, growing up, growing older, and the mental contortions people put themselves through in order to put on a front for the world or themselves, despite what they actually feel inside.

    White Teeth isn't a very plot-driven book, taking snapshots of its central figures and their lives through multiple decades, but it's this epic sweep, I think, that really gives Smith's novel resonance. From beneath the comic posturing and postulations of her characters emerges a true sense of the vital undercurrents of history, as seen by a member of the generation about to inherit it. Few writers in their 30s show such talent, let alone those among Smith's 20-something peers (back when she wrote the book, that is). Vibrant, funny, and moving -- highly recommended.

    The audiobook rendering was excellent, and might even make the listening experience preferable to reading the print version. The narrator did a great job with all the accents.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherray NewYork, NY, United States 12-13-09
    Sherray NewYork, NY, United States 12-13-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "White Teeth"

    I liked the comedic parts of this book,but felt that it could have been a little better plot-wise.The sudden political parts confused me,when the narrator went from a paragraph about the family and then to something about a war and somewbody being a captain....if it wasn't for that,I'dve given it another star.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jolinda Ramona, CA, USA 11-09-07
    Jolinda Ramona, CA, USA 11-09-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "disappointed"

    After reading On Beauty, which was FABULOUS, I could hardly wait to read White Teeth, Zadie Smith's first book. What a disappointment! I found it very difficult to follow the transitions between characters and didn't find any of the characters interesting enough to make me want to follow them. There was very little light or redemption in site and the characters were not only bleek and seedy but boring as well. In the end, I gave up about 2/3 of the way through, telling myself "this is just more than I wanted to know about turtles".

    8 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne 07-23-07
    Suzanne 07-23-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow, what a book!!"

    I do not know how she does it, but Zadie Smith captures you and you are there. You know these people.

    Thank you Ms. Smith

    Suzanne

    12 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra St. Louis, MO, United States 05-07-10
    Sandra St. Louis, MO, United States 05-07-10 Member Since 2007
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    "I just didn't get it!"

    I wanted to like this book. Between the reviews on here and on Amazon, I thought I was going to like it. The narrator had a really annoying accent, but that aside, I could not get into the story. The characters are shallow and not well developed enough to make you care about the story. When the author does spend time developing characters, it seems like a misguided focus on mundane aspects of their lives. I even tried fast forwarding through a large part of the middle of the story, hoping it would get better later, but that did not happen. I could not spend over 23 hours of my life on this book. 9 hours were enough to make me want my credits back!

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bradley La Crosse, WI, United States 03-28-09
    Bradley La Crosse, WI, United States 03-28-09 Member Since 2008
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    "White Teeth"

    A good read, a fantastic reader, but all the absurd coincidences and implausible plot turns ruined it for me in the end.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra 03-07-09
    Debra 03-07-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Could not finish it"

    Although the author's talent is evident and there were some good spots in the story I got to a point where I just could listen no longer. I kept asking myself, where is this going. Answer, nowhere.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca United States 03-06-14
    Rebecca United States 03-06-14 Member Since 2011

    I drive a lot, so I listen to a lot of books. I am addicted to Audible!

    ratings
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    "Returning Reader"
    What made the experience of listening to White Teeth the most enjoyable?

    This is my second time reading this book, and I feel that I could read it again and again. I first read this book in a post-colonial literature class and truly enjoyed it. Now, I find the book equally, or even more, thought provoking.


    What other book might you compare White Teeth to and why?

    I wish there were more writers like Zadie Smith, but I truly cannot find one. The last time I read this book and On Beauty, I had a book "hang-over" and was left craving a similar narrative style paired with the literary depth. I wish Smith would write more books!


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Humm... this is a difficult choice. I truly enjoyed the description of Trafalgar Square, where the statues (of Nelson, etc) face Westminster and Big Ben with their backs to the National Gallery. The text explained that only in England would people turn their backs on culture and look toward the future (or something like that). This is an interesting description as is deeply contrasts with the condition of the immigrant in the book; throughout the book, the immigrant families seem constantly tied down by their history and are unable to escape it. There are also allusions in this scene to the immigrant attempting to leave his or her mark in the country, but finding that, though he/she puts sweat and blood into it, the immigrant ultimately just makes a mess of things and is generally unsuccessful unless he/she assimilates into the dominant culture.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    If they turned this book into a movie, I would be very upset. I think that the book is way too deep to be sliced apart and turned into a movie.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are not in the mood for a "heavy" or "deep" book, White Teeth might not be what you need at this moment. If you are an ex-English major that is fascinated by post-colonial literature and craving something thought provoking, then this is the perfect book for you!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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