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NW (2012)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,923866,090 (3.5)200
"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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» See also 200 mentions

English (82)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (86)
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
Overrated mess...I just don't understand the critical acclaim for this novel. Reading it is like dreaming, the story (if you can call it that)is in snippets and nothing makes sense.

This timely NY Times article sums up my frustration:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-person-w... ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
The most concrete definition of city life that I have encountered, bringing together writing that is at times as engagingly comedic as it is suddenly consequential. Smith turns the knife at the right moments, and captures the untrue face of London in a bottle in this book. ( )
  ephemeral_future | Aug 20, 2020 |
Flawed but brilliant in places, especially in the first half. Until recently I lived in Willesden (I've spotted Zadie Smith a number of times in Kilburn) and would often be on the 98 bus central to the plot here; Smith captures life in London perfectly (albeit North of the river only), probably better than any other book I've read, but the 2nd half was largely a mess and could have done with a huge amount of editing.

May have worked better as an audio book too, I tried to read the book a year or two ago and got fed up with her modernist tics that largely don't add anything (although I enjoyed the stream of consciousness trip to Edgware Rd), but this is mostly gone in the voiced version - with the 2 narrators doing an excellent job.

A frustrating read, not sure I could recommend to non-Londoners. ( )
  arewenotben | Jul 31, 2020 |
Loved it! I felt like I was in London -- and not the London in British romantic comedies. No one has an ear for dialect like Zadie Smith. I also really enjoyed the more experimental style of this novel compared with her others. I did think the balance of the book was a little bit off, in terms of how much we learned about certain characters and how they fit into the larger story, but other than that I found it very engrossing and thought-provoking. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
The third and fourth part are clearly the best, giving an insight on the life of an English-Jamaican woman and the contradictions of her successful life. The episodic style favors the construction of a puzzle that reinforces the turns of life and the inherent problems of identity in a multicultural society (London). ( )
  dribaspt | May 20, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 82 (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.
 

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Zadieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gray318Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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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Wikipedia in English (1)

"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.

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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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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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