Book - 2012
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"Four Londoners--Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan--try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end."--Publisher's information.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2012
ISBN: 9781594203978
Call Number: FICTION SMITH 2012
Characteristics: 401 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Growing up in the same 1970s urban planning development in Northwest London, four young people pursue independent and reasonably successful lives until one of them is abruptly drawn out of her isolation by a stranger who is seeking her help.

From the critics

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May 13, 2018

after reading White Teeth and Swing Time, both of which I loved, I could not get into NW. I did not even finish reading it and returned it. May be it is a good book, but did not work for me. The language was too hard filled with broken sentences.

Jul 20, 2016

Part 1(Visitation) is where all the characters begin walking into the scenes, but it confused me from the beginning, especially where dialogue took place. I struggled through, and decided to believe I was overpowered by the unique narrative style as much as if I were confronted when walking into the neighborhood.

Part 2(Guest) is written in a style that I'm more comfortable with, even though I sensed the fate of Felix in the beginning(I didn't miss a spoiler in part 1). I'd say this is the most moving chapter.

Part 3(Host) focuses on Keisha/Natalie, whom I was hoping to be a fuller and more profound heroine than her best friend Leah (a puzzling character seems to be puzzled by exogenous substance all the time), until the writer made her hook on internet porn and walk in strangers house for sex. The stream of consciousness enhanced my reading experience, but I don't buy her emptiness and dissatisfaction.

Part 4(Crossing) is thin, but important for Nathan to be in view, and prepare for a later event.
Part 5(Visitation) makes a closure (and room for many discussions) with a brilliant stroke!

The plot is simple, though I'm still trying to figure out interlocking of the random and meticulous. I'm wavering, the language used in the book presents both charm and barrier to me.

Mar 24, 2015

Zadie Smith is always a pleasure to read, and this complex tale of the interwoven lives of urban residents in a gritty London neighborhood is no exception.

PaulaBlix Jan 05, 2015

I'd previously read Smith's "The Autograph Man" and quite disliked it so was not looking forward to having to read "NW" for my book group. The first section bore that out - quite disliked it - but the ensuing two sections turned out to be much better and those main characters were more engrossing. So, overall, I would have to say that I liked the book *okay* - I would maybe give it a grade of 65%.
- Paula

manoush Nov 24, 2014

Zadie Smith's latest novel does demand focused attention. It feels more like three somewhat linked novellas than a coherent whole. As both critics and readers have pointed out, the narrative feels disjointed and very elliptical, demanding that the reader be alert and fill in the many seeming blanks. The novel sketches four characters who all live in Northwest London (hence the title) but it's really the lifelong friendship between two female characters that's the core of the book. Leah Hanwell is an earnest, adventurous white woman and Keisha/Natalie Blake is a straitlaced, repressed woman of Jamaican descent. The novel traces their close childhood bond and then their slow drifting apart as they get older. Leah ends up working in the modest housing project where they grew up and marries a lightskinned black man who works as a hairdresser. Keisha studies hard and becomes a barrister and changes her name to the more upscale Natalie, to suit her new upper middle class lifestyle, complete with a beautiful & wealthy mixed-race husband and a large house. Though the two women occupy different places in the class structure--Leah is just barely in the middle class while Natalie is well-entrenched in its far upper reaches--both feel adrift in the world and go about expressing that sense of dislocation differently. Leah turns in on herself and devotes all her emotional attention to her dog while Natalie engages in sordid assignations arranged online. The novel excels in showing how a part of each woman's spirit is broken with each passing year, not through a defining or traumatic event but simply in the course of living life with its cruelties and unexpected turns. Each woman has a loving (and at least outwardly attentive) husband yet there's a hollowness in each marriage, the incremental, unspoken chasm that develops over time between people who live together. Smith's short staccato sentences and fragmentary, non-linear storytelling requires the reader to pay lots of attention and put two and two together because the author doesn't. There's hardly any authorial exposition at all, but there are a lot of outstanding sentences--hilarious cultural commentary, deeply insightful asides, compelling internal monologues, memorable sketches of peripheral characters. But the arrangement of all of these elements together feels unsatisfying and 'choppy'. Unfortunately one gets the feeling that NW's whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Oct 04, 2014

I didn't read all of the comments, but from what I can gather, the low rating of this book by many is due to its lack of "traditional" narrative form. What a shame! I am a writer myself, and like to push the boundaries and this book was inspiring to me. I love how she created texture with these disparate aspects and styles throughout the book. There were weaker moments, but overall, that feeling of disjointedness worked very well to illustrate the characters and their disconnection from themselves and where they were from. Her use of language and description were genius, especially early on. I could go on and on and on. I was so absorbed by most of the book I had a hard time putting it down. I wish everyone could have had that experience, because it really is a master work, even if there are some hiccups in places. I love artists who push on the edges, who move art forward. We need different thinkers and innovative narrative, not just the traditional.

May 16, 2014

This is Zadie Smith's most interesting book since "White Teeth". It narrates the stories of four people from a housing estate in NW London, with each written in a different style. A somewhat experimental, post-modern book that seems authentic.

Oct 18, 2013

I really didn't enjoy this book. I found the writing style lazy, confusing and disjointed. I generally really like books with this premise, but this particular novel I would not recommend.

nherzog Jun 21, 2013

Not sure if I quite got what this book is about or trying to express. It was sometimes a bit hard to follow. I've read other Zadie Smith books that I liked much, much better, that were more of a narrative, with a more coherent plot. This one's a bit too fragmented and tentative for my taste. Still, I stuck with it, finished it; she's still an inspiring writer, just prefer a more traditional narrative style.

rosenyny Mar 13, 2013

I tried really hard to enjoy this book, reading over the first 100 pages but there was essentially no plot to get engaged in. While the writing style in this section of the book is quite unique, it takes a genuine effort to follow the dialog. Unfortunately, I didn't feel very rewarded with for my "sticktoitiveness." I, therefore, abandoned this book. I've heard great things about her other books and they are not written in the same style and are very plot driven so perhaps I will enjoy those.

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