I Found A Cavity In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth


This post is so overdue that I’m almost embarrassed to write it at this point.  However, I made a commitment several months ago with Cross Your Sweetheart that I’m compelled to do this.  It doesn’t matter that it’s three months AFTER I finished the book, or this whole damn, “let’s read all of the titles listed on Time’s Best 100 Novels list and then blog about it” was my idea.  I’m doing it today, by gosh and I’m doing it today for a number of reasons.  1.) No kids at home.  That’s a very good reason right there.  But for a period of time this morning I was transfixed by noises from inside the house that I haven’t heard since 1999.  Sounds such as the furnace running and the kitchen sink dripping and even the feather soft footsteps of our cats walking were all picked up by my auditory system as waves of nostalgia swept over me. I eventually snapped out of it and put my world back in order again.  2.) Like I said earlier, I committed to it  3.) These books should be read and discussed.  They shouldn’t merely be noted on a list and then given our best intentions to read someday.  These are some of the best works the written word has to offer.


I know that’s Lady Gaga, but it’s okay because it’s fitting.  It sorta plays into the the first book from “The List”.  Unfortunately, to no fault of it’s own, it had a dark cloud hanging over it from the very beginning and maybe that seeped into my feelings for it, but I selected Zadie Smith’s White Teeth as the starting point.  Why did I pick this one over the 99 other ones?  Well, let me tell you why.  I thought the list was in chronological order based on a 1-100 ranking system.  So I quickly glossed over the titles to see if I read any of them before and made my way to number 100.  What I wanted to do was read the #1 book of all time last.  So, when I landed at the bottom of The List I found White Teeth.  I announced it, I bought it, started reading it and then I went back to take a deeper look at “The List”.  I apparently perused it a little to quickly initially because after a 2nd look I realized… this thing isn’t listed from best to worst after all! It’s in alphabetical order!  I picked a book that didn’t jazz me at all only because I thought it was #100!  So you can see why this book had an ominous beginning for me.


I have to say, Zadie’s characters jumped clean off the pages and took form right in front of me.  These dudes were rich in character and unique.  She gave them such personality that I felt like I knew them personally.  They each had their idiosyncrasies, their faults, their charms and they weren’t over written.  They were 3D characters in a 2D world.

I also loved their conversations, their debates and their philosophies on life.  These conversations were so smoothly written I felt I was right there with them.  I may have even joined in with them a time or two.  I just love when an author creates characters that have depth and this book had it.

Beyond that though, I didn’t find much more redeeming about it.  It had a very good beginning that had me laughing and sucked me right in. But as quickly is it did, it lost me.


I wasn’t looking for it at all, but there it was staring at me…a cavity in the White Teeth.  That cavity was the actual storytelling.  For as much depth as she gave the characters, she tried to give the same amount, if not more, to their lives, I mean all of their lives, and it ended up being a very sprawling world.  For me, I lost faith in the storytelling because I forgot who and what the story was about.  The spotlight always seemed to shift and I was never able to focus on any one aspect of the tale.  There were just too many story-lines for my taste.  I do appreciate a somewhat generational story, but not from three or four different perspectives at the same time.


I guess, in hindsight, this story wasn’t all that horrible.  I can’t say that I would recommend it to anyone, but I wouldn’t discourage someone from reading it either.  There were some very funny moments, some emotional moments, even some dark moments but again they just came from too many directions for my taste.  I think I would have liked it a lot more if she broke up the story-lines into a series of books with each one being told from a different character’s view.  Something like Caleb Carr did with The Alienist and The Dark Angel.  Zadie Smith has a new book out, her long awaited follow-up to this one I believe, but I’m going to pass on it.  And Time better not add it to their list sometime in the future either.


Now that I have this first book done it’s time for the next one and I believe it’s a John Steinbeck project but can’t recall the title.  I’ll figure it out soon though, buy the e-book and get started on #2.  Then there will only be 98 more to go.

Thank you for reading, I truly appreciate it.

Please “like” and/or post a comment if you’re so inclined and if you read this from my Twitter link, please retweet.

Until next time…


3 thoughts on “I Found A Cavity In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth

  1. Pingback: I Found A Cavity In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth |

  2. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Hello, lovers! Just a quick update to let you know that my partner-in-crime has posted his review of Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth”. If you do recall, we’re working our way through TIME’s Top 100 Books, and we’ve been really slacking. With that being said, here’s Mike’s great analysis. Also, if you want to check back on what I had to say about Smith’s work, it’s right here.

    I think Caleb and I are going to a get-together tonight, so while we’re doing that, I’m wishing you all a great evening.


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