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NW : a novel by Zadie Smith
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NW : a novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Zadie Smith

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1,101607,536 (3.52)153
Member:rjuris
Title:NW : a novel
Authors:Zadie Smith
Info:New York : Penguin Press, 2012.
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:Read2012, fiction, family, relationships, london

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NW by Zadie Smith (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Read an excerpt of this in the New Yorker. It's insanely good. This struck me as eerily accurate, looking back on my own childhood friendships:

"It had never occurred to Keisha Blake that her friend Leah Hanwell was in possession of a particular type of personality. As with most children, theirs was a relationship based on verbs, not nouns. Leah Hanwell was a person willing and available to do a variety of things that Keisha Blake was willing and available to do."

Just brilliant. Can't wait.
  Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
I had a hard time getting into this book, because of how it is written. I think maybe listening to it would have been better. But once I got into it, I liked it, although I don't understand the ending exactly. Can't wait to discuss it at book club tomorrow; meanwhile I need to digest it. I never would have chosen to read this book, and its very different from anything I've read, and the writing style is weird, but I'm glad I stuck with it. ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
I had a hard time getting into this book, because of how it is written. I think maybe listening to it would have been better. But once I got into it, I liked it, although I don't understand the ending exactly. Can't wait to discuss it at book club tomorrow; meanwhile I need to digest it. I never would have chosen to read this book, and its very different from anything I've read, and the writing style is weird, but I'm glad I stuck with it. ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
I had a hard time getting into this book, because of how it is written. I think maybe listening to it would have been better. But once I got into it, I liked it, although I don't understand the ending exactly. Can't wait to discuss it at book club tomorrow; meanwhile I need to digest it. I never would have chosen to read this book, and its very different from anything I've read, and the writing style is weird, but I'm glad I stuck with it. ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
I had a hard time getting into this book, because of how it is written. I think maybe listening to it would have been better. But once I got into it, I liked it, although I don't understand the ending exactly. Can't wait to discuss it at book club tomorrow; meanwhile I need to digest it. I never would have chosen to read this book, and its very different from anything I've read, and the writing style is weird, but I'm glad I stuck with it. ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (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
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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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