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NW (2012)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,416986,194 (3.49)201
"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 201 mentions

English (93)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (97)
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
Both sweeping (in the chaotic breadth of its narrative) and exquisitely detailed (an extended sequence between two characters negotiating the price of a used car, for instance, has the reader hanging at every word), NW is an engrossing, electric, read.

What Smith does here with language is wonderful; it's random, fragmentary, stream-of-consciousness. Not "postmodern" -- though the novel is partly about that dizzying, interconnected, overstimulated chaos of our 21st-century lives, tethered to our mobile devices -- it's perhaps, more quaintly, modern. Joycean is the quickest, perhaps cliched, descriptor to mind, Smith popping into the heads of her characters, lonely flaneurs all, as they wind their way, through the council flats and streets of northwest London. The prose may not work for everyone; there's a whiff of brash, first-draft-out-of-M.F.A.-school, experimentation (and to be clear, I'm implying nothing pejorative here), but when was the last time you saw established writers still willing to take these sorts of risks? ( )
  thewilyf | Dec 25, 2023 |
I found the story so interesting, reading about all the places I get to see on a daily as an NW resident. I also enjoy the erratic/chaotic way that Smith writes. ( )
  CricklewoodLibrary | Oct 28, 2023 |
I was gripped from page one and thoroughly enjoyed the book, often recognising aspects of London life. Beautifully written and observed. Ms. Smith is an impressive talent. Recommended. ( )
  JamieStarr | Jul 15, 2023 |
As a Londoner this book struck a chord in me and after reading a few of the reviews slating it, I feel the desire to explain why. This isn't my type of literature, far from it, but I found myself drawn in. Zadie Smith has captured the language and dialect of several generations, to the point that I was transported back 14 years to high school. I remember people using terms like "long" and "blud", I remember people like the characters of NW.

The reason for the low rating is that while the novel was compelling, as mentioned it was not my cup of tea. But mostly it was incredibly depressing. Is that what we all have to look forward to in adult hood? Or is that just the vision of those who do not dream of something else, something better? ( )
  justgeekingby | Jun 6, 2023 |
I just didn’t get this one. ( )
  tmilaandlc | Apr 9, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (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
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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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