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NW: A Novel by Zadie Smith

NW: A Novel (2012)

by Zadie Smith

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Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
I never really settled into this novel, perhaps it needs more attention than I can ever give it but I found it never really hung together and I mostly had no idea where it was going and what the narrative was. I plodded on through it but felt very disappointed. It started off strongly enough with Leah's story and I was more or less following that, although a character with a name change was confusing. Felix's story also hung together. In the third section I wasn't really sure where I was and I was anticipating a link with Felix but it turned out this was not as significant as I expected. The style of the third section was short paragraphs with headings that didn't encourage me to become engaged. ( )
1 vote Tifi | Jul 21, 2019 |
Interesting but a bit directionless. (Perhaps deliberately, but I found that a bit frustrating.) ( )
  tronella | Jun 22, 2019 |
Finely made sentences, little else. Part of the set of novels based on the premise that accuracy regarding a time and a place is sufficient. I am unconvinced. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
Apparently Professor Higgins was very diligent. He transcribed patterns of speech into his notebooks. He recorded as varied examples of dialect and pronunciation as possible. We all know the risks involved with those wax cylinders. Poor, poor, Professor Higgins.

Ms. Smith undertook a similar project with a similar intensity. She proved likewise pitch perfect. Speech pattern and intonation reign in NW. The remaining obstacle was plot. Everyone wants to be Trollope, no? Zadie is sage. She stuck to her money move. Ms. Smith penned another White Teeth, this one with Ipads, Brick Lane and The Wire. Her updated novel isn’t all that compelling. The silences are the most daunting. No mention of the tube bombings, the Tottenham riots, the Olympics. I’m not being critical of her not writing a social history. I just find these maneuverings odd. Despite such opacity, her research does shine through. There is a delicate beauty in her dialogue. It is only enhanced by the frenetic circumstances under which it is expressed. ( )
1 vote jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
a couple days ago fka twigs wrote that London "cant [be understood] unless you've lived it." that's what i'm thinking right now, two days after finishing this shocking book. that it's almost impenetrable unless you've walked along the same routes the characters in this book have, felt their life in the way that you understand strangers on the street (unless you've cried on a cherry-red bus in the same way that a thousand people have cried on a cherry-red bus).
and i think this book expresses all of that. ( )
1 vote livingtoast | Jan 23, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
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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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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Zadie Smith's brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan, as they 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.

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