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Still, the book's home base is a scrubby North London borough, where we encounter Smith's unlikely heroes: prevaricating Archie Jones and intemperate Samad Iqbal, who served together in the so-called Buggered Battalion during World War II. In the ensuing decades, both have gone forth and multiplied: Archie marries beautiful, bucktoothed Clara--who's on the run from her Jehovah's Witness mother--and fathers a daughter. Samad marries stroppy Alsana, who gives birth to twin sons. Here is multiculturalism in its most elemental form: "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. Even a simple exchange between Alsana and Clara about their pregnancies has a comical ring of truth: "A woman has to have the private things--a husband needn't be involved in body business, in a lady's... parts." And the men, of course, have their own involvement in bodily functions:
The deal was this: on January 1, 1980, like a New Year dieter who gives up cheese on the condition that he can have chocolate, Samad gave up masturbation so that he might drink. It was a deal, a business proposition, that he had made with God: Samad being the party of the first part, God being the sleeping partner. And since that day Samad had enjoyed relative spiritual peace and many a frothy Guinness with Archibald Jones; he had even developed the habit of taking his last gulp looking up at the sky like a Christian, thinking: I'm basically a good man.Not all of White Teeth is so amusingly carnal. The mixed blessings of assimilation, for example, are an ongoing torture for Samad as he watches his sons grow up. "They have both lost their way," he grumbles. "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." These classic immigrant fears--of dilution and disappearance--are no laughing matter. But in the end, they're exactly what gives White Teeth its lasting power and undeniable bite. --Eithne Farry --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Smith's characters are all wonderfully unique and terrifically funny.
It seems that while the characters are very rich, and their individual stories are entertaining, there is no apparent plot for the majority of the book.
I tried to get to know the characters, I tried to get into the story...that's just it, I had to try very hard to like this book.
Excellent novel! Smith has the lyrical virtuosity of a master poet and easily transcends most of her contemporaries in this audacious first novel. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Johnny2000
The characters are amazing. Each one seems so real and unique. This book was funny, exciting, enlightening and most of all the most entertaining book I have read in a long time.Published 10 days ago by Larry Oliver
Amazing storyteller that keeps you laughing throughout the tale. Some of the scenes are so outrageously funny that I laughed out loud during my commute disturbing the other... Read morePublished 1 month ago by The Notebook Blogairy
When people asked me to describe this book as I read it, I told them it was rather "Seinfeldian," in that it wasn't so much about any one thing in particular. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Victor C. DeTagle
Very interesting book with a unique style of writing. Main characters are vividly drawn and mostly convincing. It's hard to think of anything quite like it. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Economics Professor
I was very engaged with the well-defined characters and good story linePublished 2 months ago by R. Briggs
Zadie Smith grabs your attention from the opening sentence and never lets you go. White Teeth is as much an achievement of craft as it is a worthwhile journey into the worlds of... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alex Rosenfeld
I have not yet finished so I don't want to be too judgmental.Published 3 months ago by Travis C. Lunsford