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3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  14,909 ratings  ·  2,160 reviews
"NW" is Zadie Smith's masterful novel about London life. Zadie Smith's brilliant tragi-comic "NW" follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan - after they've left their childhood council estate, grown up and moved on to different lives. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their city is brutal, beautiful and complicated. Yet after a chance ...more
Hardcover, 401 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published September 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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So uhm...

Like seriously? This was such a load of dreck. I can't even sit here and form coherent thoughts because I'm still so bewildered at the mess I just read. I guess all I can do is take a page out of the book and write the review by section and sub-heading because I'm really struggling to string words together that can represent my utter confusion and disgust. Here goes nothing...

Visitation Part Un: (I can't believe) This was the best section of the book and I really didn't want it to be be

i think zadie smith is good at writing.

for one thing, she has a real flair for location. i don't recall having been to northwest london (directions are hard) but i feel like i can see it, through the eyes of her characters.

she captures the cadence and speech-patterns of a broad swathe of london's immigrant denizens; irish, caribbean, caribbean-italian, algerian, maybe-indian, russian, tempered by the toughness of the council estates, smoothed out by educati
The iridescent computer screen glows white. In the bathroom the faucet spews forth, the bath her child will be coaxed into entering.

I don't get
I don't get this book

--Oi! Don't even try to parody this style! You can't possibly get her dialects right -- her ear for culture -- her class symbolism --
--Her point...

The reviewer believes in books that are about something. Books that have a main character, a beginning, a middle, an end. A story.

"This book has strange chapter headings," she tells her im
MJ Nicholls
This is the novel I hoped Zadie would write. Since On Beauty in 2006, she’s been brushing up on the post-Eggers American hipster canon, hanging with the Brooklyn crowd, writing dissertations on DFW. This structurally inventive, stylistically diverse and playful novel should have set my eyes aflame with love for the precocious stripling who wrote those three unwieldy social satires in her early-to-late twenties. But it didn’t. Divided into a series of cryptic sections with titles like ‘visitation ...more
The cover-flap copy makes this seem like a playfully pomo tragicomic treatise on contemporary city life but it seemed more like a simultaneously straightforward and purposefully skewed narrative exploration of superaccessible topics like long-term friendship, fluid identity (possibility of), order/chaos (extremes to which we might alternately lean when there's lack or excess of either), ye olde search for meaning in a world that rarely stays ordered forever.

All these themes are reflected in the
"Sneaky animals. Foxes are everywhere. If you ask me, they run things."

I don't know what's wrong with me lately. I've lost all motivation to write up these little book reviews. I'm just about bored out of my mind watching UFC fights. I'm not even really sure how I pass the time that I'm not at work, I guess reading, but none of that reading is doing much to inspire me to want to write about anything I've read.

But it's not that the books I've been reading are boring me or anything. I'm enjoying
I loved Zadie’s first book, White Teeth, which she wrote when she was only 23 years old. I may be wrong but I feel that with this book Smith was trying to distance herself from her 23 year old self.

This book introduces us to several residents of the northwest of London. There’s Leah who isn’t content with her life despite her loving husband who desperately wants to start a family with her. There’s Felix, a recovering addict who decides he’s off the drugs for good and ready to embark on an adult
...NW came to an end and I sat back in my seat and closed my eyes. I could still see images from the movie, long shots: the tower blocks of a north London suburb; two figures moving down a long dreary street; close-ups: a pair of ragged red slippers; the dirt encrusted fabric of a cheap blue tracksuit; all very vivid. How had those images fitted into the story line, I wondered? Had there been an actual story line, some unifying thread running through the whole? I was confused. I shook my head to ...more
Gary  the Bookworm
I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Zadie Smith's NW has been compared to lots of different works: Mrs. Dalloway, Ulysses, Telegraph Ave, even White Teeth, her debut novel. It seems to me that nothing comes closer to its essence than these few lines by Emily Dickinson. Set in NW London, also the setting for White Teeth, i
A slow burn. I took a while to get into it, since NW is self-consciously experimental. Fifty pages in, and I remember why I love Zadie Smith. It is not that she helps my feeble mind recall the 90s: when airfare was cheap, globalism was novel, and being in a city with as much diversity and cultural incongruity as possible was the transcosmopolitan goal ("I was hanging out with this half-Jewish Jamaican guy last night. He's from Brazil, Sikh by choice, disclaims his birthright, vegan. We were smok ...more
I am sure that there are those that will disagree with my 2 star rating. I was excited to see that Zadie Smith had written a new work of fiction. I was towards the beginning of it when Anne Enright's review was published in the Times. The review was great, the book, not so much. I disliked the characters, their dishonesty and so much more. Sometimes when reading her writing, it is like being in a dreamlike state, you are not really sure what's going on. In a book you can return to the passage, w ...more
Umphh.. Just read the end, put the book down, and I feel fatigued!!

Definitely, this is the triumph of structure over content. And not in a good, "just on the right line" way. Content is absolutely smashed to a pulp and disintegrated, by Alexander the Great the Emperor of All Worlds: The Structure. In fact, I'd venture to say that the book is a beautiful empty box. The author spent so much time working on the box and the wrapping, that she forgot she actually had a flipping novel to write! A sto
Author Smith says NW is about language, and I agree. Language is central to our understanding of the characters, and language defines their lives in many ways. I had the good fortune to listen to the audio of this title, brilliantly read by Karen Bryson and Don Gilet. Having access to a paper copy at the same time, I feel confident that the spoken version is an aid to clarity and understanding, and there was true enjoyment in hearing the range of vocal virtuosity by both readers. I did end up l ...more
This was one of those books that I wanted to enjoy more than I actually did. I can't really fault Smith's writing - she's very accomplished, and like lots of writers has a real knack for dialogue and choosing those little 'slice of life' scenes that paint a picture of a community. But for me, NW wasn't emotionally engaging and I didn't care enough about the characters. It wasn't a good story well told, and instead felt more like an anthropology thesis - showing us various 'types' of people then ...more
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
I read this book with Rowena so I'm writing with the benefit of her illuminating comments. You can read her review here.

3.5 stars

The book is divided into sections narrated by different characters. Our first storyteller is Leah, a young white woman from North West London with Irish parents, married to a black African francophone immigrant, Michel. The initial encounter Leah has with a young woman begging for help at her door reveals her generous nature, while the fragmentary style of the writing
I finished this book more than a week ago, but this is the first time I've been able to make myself sit down and write a review. The problem isn't that I've been trying to decide what I want to talk about, the problem is that I don't really have much to say about this book at all.

The story is divided into four mini-arcs, all taking place in the same neighborhood in northwest London. We start with Leah, a white woman (the neighborhood is predominately black, and mostly Caribbean). Her section sho
I opened NW on Friday night and immediately became submerged in this part of London that I’ve never been too. I closed and finished it late Sunday night. My reading was supported by the excellent Penguin audiobook. The two first-rate audiobook readers added to the tremendous life that Zadie Smith put into writing NW. Each accent gave me that perspective I needed to relate to the characters but most of all to give me the right tone. The tone that I imagine Zadie Smith was imaging when she wrote N ...more
John Purcell
I find it odd that anyone can read this book without feeling extraordinarily pleased that someone somewhere is taking the effort to think about this fucked up world in a manner that is both dispassionate and instructive. Comparing this book with the rubbish our market obsessed, ie ill-informed reader obsessed, publishers and writers are lauding, and which I, in my current position, have to read, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards the author. Which I shall express thus - thank fuck ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Zadie Smith wrote a masterpiece debut novel when she was under 30, a story that takes place in a Northwest London borough, (but the narrative also travels to Jamaica, Turkey, and Bangladesh). WHITE TEETH stands out as one of my favorite books of all time. While reading, I felt as if I were living with these characters--people who struggled with race, identity, assimilation, gender politics, the immigrant experience, and more. Smith's levity eases the weighty subjects without undermining them, an ...more
A riotous and feisty stream-of-consciousness novel about four characters living in London's NW neighborhood.
At heart, a wondrous take on the ineluctable fact that we never really, truly, know other people. The core of their personality, what makes them tick, what drives them to do the things they do will always remain hidden from view, no matter how well we think we "know" them. In the context of today's obsession with self-exposure, I find that idea and premise fascinating.
Zadie Smith's sense
Erik Simon
Zadie Smith is the kind of writer who makes me glad I'm alive. And in some inexplicable way, she always makes me love my son and the fact that I'm raising him more, a kid I'm already pretty giddy to be around. Can't clarify any of that--just is what it is. And I say all of this even though (heresy alert) I didn't even like WHITE TEETH. Felt like I was the only person who didn't, but I didn't. I loved ON BEAUTY, and I relish her essays, so very fucking smart.

NW is a marvel. Some while back, in th

: you know what? this is zadie's "pregnant brain" novel. (Pregnant brain: a term i heard for the first time during an episode of Tia and Tamera on Style Network. Tia would blame her forgetfulness on the maladies of Pregnant Brain. Everyone would nod. There was an understanding. They would eat cake pops and all was well with the world. Riveting.) i think the seed (haha) of this novel is her fear/anxiety/giddiness of become a mother. and this is the lens in which i read this intricate but scatterb
At first I thought Zadie Smith was channeling Virginia Woolf in her latest novel, only instead of haute bourgeois characters, she focused on an upwardly mobile working class girl from the projects, who commits the unlikely act of doling out real money to a dirty, hysterical junkie who turns up at her door with an obviously fake story. There was something so flaccid and hopeless about Leah Hanwell seen through the lens of her random thoughts and fragmentary observations. And Zadie Smith has done ...more
NW just about scraped a 3 star rating. I was hell-bent on giving it only 2 but after much deliberation and introspection I bumped it up. Watching Smith discuss the book in an interview also helped me understand her intentions a little more.

The problem is Zadie Smith isn't a bad writer but that NW is (in my opinion as always) a bad book. Smith is obviously highly intelligent and undeniably talented but I don't think NW is a very good indicator of all that.

The structure of the book was off-puttin
Sep 23, 2012 Charlie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
I should preface this review by letting you know that no, I have not yet read "White Teeth," so this review comes unbiased with no precedent set for comparison.

That being said, I really wanted to give this book four stars. It's a solid three and a half. And, had it not been for the ending, I would've rounded up to four stars. But here's why I didn't:

Smith gives her readers a couple loosely and not-so-loosely interconnected stories of some of the (un)lucky folks living in NW London. The writing
Did anyone notice a huge plot problem?

I was excited to read this book because I'd heard it compared to White Teeth and I had been disappointed by both the books she wrote in between. I felt maybe she had listened to too many of the critics that called Teeth loose, baggy, and wandering. The following couple were tighter. Too tight. And pat.

Well I don't know what to say about this one. I didn't appreciate the meaning of some Brit-specific details, so completely missed when one of the characters "s
Zadie Smith is one of the most talented writers working today. Her debut novel, “White Teeth,” published when she was 24, brilliantly and affectionately captured the rhythms and exuberance of multicultural present-day London and gave us a lush narrative driven by richly developed characters. In NW, Smith returns to the teeming, ungentrified streets of Northwest London (where she was born) but this time her characters take a back seat to the style and structure of the novel.

Leah Hanwell and Nata
Thank God I don't buy books anymore.

I came upon White Teeth back when it hit the scene and I was blown away. I felt that I had found, in Zadie Smith, my literary super hero. Then came On Beauty (or maybe Autograph Man which I don't even remember) and I was disappointed - I don't like retellings as a rule, and this one seemed just smutty and pointless. Yet, I was excited to hear there was a new book coming, and since I heard Smith read from it (complete with perfect pitch accents and fabulous del
Holly DeMark
If this book had been about the south side of Chicago (read: if I'd understood the majority of the cultural references), I would have enjoyed it more. I always felt like she was craftily describing something, a way of life and a specific subculture, but it was always just out of reach for me. I liked some sections and storytelling styles better than others. I identified better with Leah, whose perspective dominated the first half of the book, but I felt like I lost her a bit at the end - though ...more
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The Ending?! 10 245 Jun 04, 2014 05:39PM  
So, what's with the narrative style? 3 34 Apr 20, 2014 09:18AM  
2013 Clutch Readi...: NW-Zadie Smith March 2013 Book Discussion II 8 87 Mar 31, 2013 12:00PM  
Literary Fiction ...: Discussion: NW 88 194 Dec 26, 2012 08:43AM  
Natalie's listing 3 134 Dec 23, 2012 03:47PM  
Cover photo is available... 1 32 Feb 29, 2012 08:26AM  
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Zadie Smith (born Sadie Smith October 27, 1975) is an English novelist. To date she has written four novels, and is widely regarded as one of England's most talented young authors; in 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors.

See also

More about Zadie Smith...
White Teeth On Beauty The Autograph Man Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays The Book of Other People

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“Perhaps sex isn't of the body at all. Perhaps it is a function of language.” 22 likes
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