White Teeth // Zadie Smith

I adored Smith’s latest novel, Swing Time (2016), when I read it back in January, though Zadie fans warned me it was her worst, that I should start with something well-loved like her debut, White Teeth.  Here I am, just a few short months later, having finished White Teeth: and I can honestly say I prefer Swing Time.

From the back cover:

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 with- among many other things- friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, 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.

For me, White Teeth was a bit of a struggle to get through.  I almost thought I was in a reading slump, because I never felt motivated to sit down and pick it up.  My experience reading White Teeth was a big disappointment, especially after how much I loved Swing Time.  Occasionally, however, when I did actually pick it up, I liked what I read.  Each chapter is written during a different time period, from varying perspectives across a small cast of characters.  In that sense, White Teeth felt like a loosely-collected short story anthology, in which one must read all twenty pieces in order to put the puzzle together into a novel.  Looking at White Teeth like this, it’s easy to see why I didn’t get along with most of the novel: I really only appreciated Irie’s five stories, and maybe one or two of Samad’s and Archie’s.  You wouldn’t say you love a short story collection after liking less than half of the stories; following this logic, I can’t say that I love White Teeth.

“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.”

-Zadie Smith, White Teeth

As with Swing Time, and again with White Teeth, I admire the way that Smith carefully constructs her sentences so that every word has its place on the page, and I appreciate what she has to say about race and religion, but unfortunately I just didn’t agree with White Teeth.  I guess I’ll have to be in the minority on this one.

Find this book on Goodreads.

7 thoughts on “White Teeth // Zadie Smith

    1. I’m always convincing myself I’ve read a book when it turns out I haven’t, and vice versa! I’m sorry you didn’t like WHITE TEETH, but as you can see, I didn’t either. 😀 Here’s to better books and better memories!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Just finished the book. I found it interesting to read. For me, the intent of the book was not clear in the first half, when the author was introducing the characters. But as I progressed through the book, things started to make sense. And I was able to understand the intent of writing this book.
    I haven’t read Swing time, putting it in my reading list.
    Spare a minute to see my take on ‘White teeth’ here (https://rtsbyzulfi.wordpress.com/2019/09/04/white-teeth-by-zadie-smith-book-review/) on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Karissa Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s