A novel that announces the debut of a preternaturally gifted new writer — a writer who at the age of 24 demonstrates both an instinctive storytelling talent and a fully fashioned voice that's street-smart and learned, sassy and philosophical all at the same time … In recounting the story of Archie and Samad's families, she shows not only how one generation often revolts against another — sons against fathers, daughters against mothers — but also how they repeat their predecessors' mistakes, retrace their ancestors' dreams, and in the case of those who are immigrants, commute nervously between the poles of assimilation and nationalism, the embrace of the Other and a repudiation of its temptations … These characters are all players in Ms. Smith's riotous multicultural drama, living out their stories on her chessboard of postcolonial dreams and frustrations, and yet at the same time, they've been limned with such energy and bemused affection that they possess the quirks and vulnerabilities of friends and neighbors we've known all our lives.
Zadie Smith's dazzling intergenerational first novel White Teeth...offers a hypnotic and multicolored experience, transforming London's outlines into an infinitely complex mandala whose true shape is, in the end, unfixed and unknowable … Archie and Samad's friendship is the dynamic engine that powers Smith's tale...but past, present and future play themselves out in divergent ways for Smith's rather feckless patriarchs and their families … With so much story to deliver, Smith keeps White Teeth humming, not bothering to dally amid the book's panoramic cast, Gordian tangle of symbolism, intricately contrived plot and big issues … Smith is already a wonderfully inventive synthesizer of ideas and a master of style whose prose is playful yet unaffected, mongrel yet cohesive, profound yet funny, vernacular yet lyrical.
Zadie Smith's debut novel is, like the London it portrays, a restless hybrid of voices, tones and textures. Hopscotching through several continents and 150 years of history, White Teeth encompasses a teeming family saga, a sly inquiry into race and identity and a tender-hearted satire on religious antagonism and cultural bemusement … the novel plays with the gap between expectation and reality, most vigorously dramatized in Samad's offspring, ‘the first descendants of the great ocean-crossing experiment’ … White Teeth, for all its tensions, is a peculiarly sunny novel. Its crowdedness, its tangle of competing voices and viewpoints, betoken a society struggling toward accommodation, tolerance, perhaps even fellowship, and a time in which miscegenation is no longer the exception but the norm.
What she has to say in her brilliant and troubling debut novel, White Teeth, is said from the vantage point of both the colonized and the colonizer. But her purpose here, clearly, is not to afflict the comfortable or comfort the afflicted … Unlike many who have written about the immigrant experience, Smith doesn't protest about what (or who) occupies the center and what exists at the margins of society … No author is obligated to do anything but write what she sees...Smith is a fascinating new talent, with a depth, breadth and insight that many older writers do not express. But, for me, White Teeth exists in the curious, not-so-brave world of recent narrative where blacks serve as a convenient sideshow.
In Zadie Smith’s marvel of a debut novel, White Teeth, London’s cultural melting pot festers and thrives as the millennium — or possibly the apocalypse — approaches … Smith’s ear is sharply tuned to the playful possibilities of language … Reminiscent of both Salman Rushdie and John Irving, Teeth is a comic, canny, sprawling tale, adeptly held together by Smith’s literary sleight of hand.
Smith may not sing, but her prose certainly does. Teeth is an epic, omnivorous comedy about London. It's about clashing cultures and generations, about people with too much history in their blood or none at all … White Teeth has far too many characters, and its plot is tortured. But Smith has an astonishing intellect. She writes sharp dialogue for every age and race — and she's funny as hell…[White Teeth] is a dance everybody ought to see.