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NW by Zadie Smith
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NW (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Zadie Smith

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875None10,094 (3.55)146
Member:kidzdoc
Title:NW
Authors:Zadie Smith
Info:Hamish Hamilton (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:British literature, London, multicultural London

Work details

NW by Zadie Smith (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Een boeiend en lastig te beschrijven boek. In eerste instantie is er weinig van te gebruiken, ook door het af en toe haast intuïtieve taalgebruik. Naarmate het boek vordert, wordt het steeds interessanter. Het beschrijft het leven van vier mensen in Noord-West Londen die elkaar redelijk goed kennen. Ik vond de verhalen van de vrouwen (Leah en Keisha / Natalie) meer boeien dan de kortere verhalen van de mannen. Felix wordt wel goed gekarakteriseerd; Nathan komt eigenlijk vooral uit de verf door de ogen van anderen.
Een boek om nog eens te lezen, na een paar jaar, om meer verbanden te zien en te begrijpen. Wel een topper! ( )
  elsmvst | Jan 7, 2014 |
The story, set in the Willesden area of north west London, follows the lives of a selection of the residents of a council housing estate as they grow from childhood to adults. Over the years, they go their separate ways but later come back together, mainly through their families who haven’t left the estate. They never seem quite satisfied with their achievements, always striving for something just outside their reach.
Zadie Smith has created a cast of realistic characters with a variety of strengths and flaws, however I could not find them as engaging or sympathetic as some that have featured in her previous books. Consequently, I felt this to be one of her less compelling novels.
  camharlow | Dec 19, 2013 |
It's hard to like a lot of the characters, but it's even harder not to like the book . So brilliantly, brutally London; one minute I was chuckling at some recognisable slang - chirpsing at a bus stop was a particular favourite - and the next something gritty or gruesome shoved me back into the gutter. The protagonists aren't pretty, and their fates are rather grim, but the writing is so expert, the sound of the capital so beautifully captured, that this makes for an easy recommendation. ( )
  alexrichman | Nov 18, 2013 |
The residents of Northwest London that Zadie Smith introduces us to in NW are facing their share of life challenges. They are working class people. A few are addicts. One escapes.

Leah and Keisha are childhood best friends who are of different races but the same class. As they grow older, Leah is quite ambition less but Keisha remains focused and determined to escape the boundaries the lower middle class. While climbing the ladder to a better life, Keisha decides to change her name to Natalie. Natalie's new status in life afforded her to marry well and start a new life away from the lower rungs of the class ladder that descended into Northwest London. When Natalie discovers a new hobby she suddenly finds herself lower than she ever was before.

Leah remains in NorthWest London. She also marries and her husband is eager to start a family. Leah goes to great lengths to make sure this never happens. Her secrets torment her.

Felix is a recovering drug addict whose mother abandoned him and his siblings leaving them with their Rastafarian father. Felix is optimistic about starting over. He is walking away from old habits and an old love. What he walks into is far worse than what he is walking away from.

I see a lot of reviewers complaining about the structure of NW but it is what I loved the most. In my opinion, this style actually confirms that Zadie Smith is the master of dialogue. I can't give her enough praise in that area. Granted, there were times I got good and lost in the narrative but I recovered pretty quickly. You get use to it after a while. Overall, the characters were flat. They were well developed but flat. There was one character that was incredibly captivating, Annie, Felix's ex-girlfriend. Annie's appearance was the highlight of the book for me. She was so tragically beautiful. ( )
  pinkcrayon99 | Nov 11, 2013 |
Four stars is for the Keisha / Natalie section, which I loved: the small, seemingly casual episodes that showed so much about all the characters. ( )
  daisyq | Oct 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Smith’s previous novels have been exuberantly plotted, and were resolved in a highly “novelistic” way. This book is much more tentative and touching in its conclusions. In an essay called “Two Paths for the Novel,” Smith has challenged what she calls the unexamined credos upon which realism is built: “the transcendent importance of form, the incantatory power of language to reveal truth, the essential fullness and continuity of the self.” None of these things make sense on the streets of northwest London. “NW” represents a deliberate undoing; an unpacking of Smith’s abundant narrative gifts to find a deeper truth, audacious and painful as that truth may be. The result is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real.
 
Half sentences, fragments, broken syntax and line, dialect, sometimes no punctuation. The linear narrative under reconstruction, jackhammer to the fourth wall of fiction, the suspension bridge of disbelief like the London Bridge of the nursery rhyme, falling down. Busting the glass ceilings....Nobody is going to accuse Smith of being straitlaced or staid, of pandering to her huge audience or of writing a “perfect” novel. Instead, Smith seems to be out to undo the conventional novel. Do the narrative hijinks pay off? Smith derails the reader from the worn ruts of what to expect, provokes surprise. She tests the support beams of plot, knocking them down when she can....Lisa Moore’s stage adaptation of her novel, February, premieres at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto from Sept. 21 to Oct. 6.
 
At these times and others it’s hard to shake the sense that all the experimentation is more fun for the author than illuminating for the reader. Why exactly, for example, are those vignettes numbered? And what’s the significance of the number 184? The mere asking of such questions is an annoyance, taking up energy that would be better spent savouring the novel’s strengths...Here, then, is a tricky case. This reviewer finds himself in the strange position of calling NW one of his favourite books of the year, yet being unable to recommend it wholeheartedly. Like John Lanchester’s Capital, another recent novel that sought to capture the ever-shifting essence of today’s London between two covers, NW proffers a rich and varied banquet yet leaves the reader’s hunger ultimately unsatisfied.

 
As a writer, Smith finally seems perfectly at ease: less like she’s trying to please and more like she’s delighting in her jaw-dropping mastery of language and dialect. This is, hands down, her best novel to date.
 
The trailing plot threads aren't exactly tied off, more tucked back in. The real mystery of NW is that it falls so far short of being a successful novel, though it contains the makings of three or four.
 
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Epigraph
When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

John Ball
Dedication
For Kellas
First words
The fat sun stalls by the phone masts.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
This is the story of a city. The northwest corner of a city. Here you'll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all. And many people in between. Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds. And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system. Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwell's door, seeking help .......
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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."--From publisher's information.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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