White Teeth is a complex family saga involving three families and two generations. Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal serve together in the English army during World War II, and remain friends in London after the war, after Archie marries the beautiful Jamacian Clara and Samad marries fellow Bengali Alsana. Alsana and Samad have twin sons, Magid and Millat, and Archie and Clara have a daughter at the same time, Irie. After Samad sends Magid back to Bangladesh to be educated, Millat and Irie form a friendship with classmate Joshua, whose parents, Marcus and Joyce, become very close with and protective of Millat. The challenges these families face come to a head when, eight years after going to Bangladesh, Magid returns, a completely different person, and forms an odd friendship and working partnership with Marcus. White Teeth is a book about the immigration experience, about marriage, about the difficulties in raising children, and about how many challenges the average family really has in day to day life.
I am going to say something that I think will be quite unpopular: I really didn’t like this book. I think perhaps I missed the point. When I started it, the characters drew me in immediately, and I cared about them, I cared about their lives, I was completely intrigued by what might happen to them. Then, 200 pages later, they began to annoy me. And 200 pages after that, they had really annoyed me and I was extremely glad the book was almost over. Then it ended, and I was left wondering why I bothered to finish it.
I know that’s harsh, and usually if I dislike a book I don’t even make it past the first fifty or so pages. But in this case, the book had a lot of promise in the beginning, which is why I kept reading. And throughout, there would be scenes I liked, parts that made me laugh or almost cry, and characters I was especially drawn to. So it wasn’t all bad. It’s just that, at the end of the day, I truly did not understand what Smith was trying to accomplish. And if I was looking to read White Teeth for entertainment value alone, well I certainly didn’t get that. The characters were all just so annoying. Truthfully, I didn’t connect with any of them and that’s my biggest pet peeve when it comes to books – I need to find something to connect with at least one of the characters. I need something to latch onto, something I can understand or at least like about them. And I didn’t get that at all with this book.
The book wasn’t horrible by any means, it just did not speak to me personally. I was engaged with the plot, for the most part, and I still found certain aspects of the novel interesting and readable. But in general, I did not enjoy the book too much and I would hesitate to recommend it to a friend. Other bloggers have loved it, though, so don’t take my word for it – check out other reviews before making a decision.
For those of you who have read White Teeth, what did you think? Am I totally crazy that I did not enjoy the book?