Saturday, May 17, 2014

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White Teeth Were Often Bleached

I've been pondering how to concise my thoughts on this book. Notably, WHITE TEETH is a well-decorated debut novel. Deserving, indeed. Zadie Smith took on several subject matters -identity, family, legacy, religion, and culture- and wittingly managed these hefty subjects with such ease and sagacity.

The plot is mainly based in London, wherein both of our main protagonists frolic and bewail. The ever indecisive Archie Jones and the contrary Samad Iqbal, both served in World War II for her majesty's British Army.  The story followed their propagation and cultural bifurcation. The English Archie took Clara Bowden, a Jehovah’s Witness and a Jamaican by descent, as his second wife and had a daughter named Irie. Samad married a fellow Bengali, Alsana Begum, and had twins, Millat and Magid. Needless to say, multiculturalism is at its peak here.

Archie and Samad were not a bit heroic, none of the characters is, considering. Their views and beliefs were ridiculous and misguided, but all a bit real and funny as well. Reading them was tangible and enlightening, there’s always a ring of truth to every scene and conversation.

Archie and Clara’s marriage mainly revolves around on Archie earnestly providing and securing his family, and Clara comforting herself that Archie is a good man. Their complacency left their daughter, Irie, struggling with her racial identity.

Meanwhile, Samad struggled and went to great lengths in raising his sons to be traditional Bengali Muslims. He constantly bemoans how England is turning his boys away from their culture; and he worries for the legacy he wants to leave behind, which didn't amount to anything if weighed accurately. His delusions of heroism were more than frustrating at times.

Obviously, teeth are the main theme. It represents identity and actions taken by individuals in experiencing life in general. Scientifically, teeth remain long after a man dies; metaphorically, it represents that it connects generations throughout time.

"You can't fight against it. I wish I had. I wish I'd given up early and hedged my bets, as it were. Because they're your father's teeth, you see, wisdom teeth are passed down by the father, I'm certain of it. So you must be big enough for them. God knows, I wasn't big enough for mine."

Ensuing, Smith used the term root canal to examine the past, which gave the story more understanding from where these characters are coming from and why they are struggling so much. Further, it helped me understand that although this procedure saves the root, it doesn't necessarily follow that it saved the teeth as a whole.

“In the end, your past is not my past and your truth is not my truth and your solution - is not my solution.” 

Of course, Zadie Smith wishes to impress her readers with such themes, language, and wit. And I am indeed impressed. For those who recommended it to me, I thank you all. White Teeth is one interesting read, made even more fun because I buddy-read it with Monique, Lester, NYKen, and Angus

Book details:
Title: White Teeth
Author: Zadie Smith
Publisher: Penguin
Publication: May 19, 1999
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: ★★★★


  1. I enjoyed reading everyone's posts. It made me appreciate the novel more. :)

  2. It was a pleasure buddy-reading this with you, Mommy Louize! I'll never forget the LOL-moments in this book, and I will always think of you when I read another Zadie Smith book. :)

    Til our next buddy read! ;)

  3. Yes, we probably should do this again soon, a collection of short stories naman. ♥