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3.46  ·  Rating details ·  35,687 ratings  ·  3,635 reviews
Set in northwest London, Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragicomic novel follows four locals—Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan—as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. In private houses and public parks, at work and at play, these Londoners inhabit a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the ...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published June 6th 2013 by Penguin (first published September 4th 2012)
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Black Cat Citizen gives a good answer. He an Natalie present two opposing arguments to the question - "why did we end up with the lives we had?", which is one o…moreCitizen gives a good answer. He an Natalie present two opposing arguments to the question - "why did we end up with the lives we had?", which is one of the main questions of the Novel.

Nathan says, "it's just luck, innit", or words to that effect. Some poor kids leave the estate and "get lucky" like Nat, and - to a lesser extent - Leah, but some kids end up on the streets, "survivin'", or in Felix's case, dying.

Nat says, "its because we worked hard, Nathan just didn't want to enough". Her success is down to her schooling, and her determination. Likewise Nat see's Leah's education as her route to her job, even though she's the only one in her work with a degree, and it's almost a hindrance for her (being a social barrier with her colleagues).

Neither answer seems particularly true. Nat did work hard, but she had a huge benefit in meeting Frank and the lawyer-set she fell in with. Felix also, for the most part, is trying to better himself but he ends up dead. But neither can we excuse Nathan, he's clearly not just a leaf blowing in the wind, he's made a lot of choices that led him to where he is, even if we can't see them all.

Nathan's other function is another portrait of "I just want you to see the real me", which is one of the central themes of the novel. Everyone wants the world to see them "as they truly are", as everyone's inner selves are different to how they are viewed by many others. With Nat, Leah and Felix, we have middle-class, lower-middle and working class, so with Nathan we go one lower into the underclass. We don't spend a lot of time with him - ultimately this reflects the main perceptions society get of the underclass, glimpses, encounters, judgements, but no real full understanding of his life. (less)

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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
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 b

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
Sean Barrs
Zadie Smith captures the essence of the multi-racial metropolis within these pages. By using a variety of narrative techniques, she demonstrates the randomness of city life and the overlapping nature of everyday experience, and she also shows how varied the voices are within the said city. It’s a contortion of meaning, life and stories.

When I began reading this all I could thing about was James Joyce. The first section of the book has borrowed many elements from Ulysses and like Dubliners an
Elyse  Walters
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For You Jaidee!

The very first two sentences of the book ( under the section called "Visitation"), scared me.
"The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on School gates and lampposts." .....
The third sentence I was ready to surrender.
"In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets European, there is a mania for eating outside".
My reading experience continued uphill. I stopped worrying if I would 'get' everything.

Leah's doorbell rings. A girl woman named Shar, is s
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "Zadieliciouz gotz the geniuz and the brillianz" ztarz !!

2015 BRONZE AWARD (3rd favorite read)

This novel was so fresh, so real and so engaging on so many levels. The story is about North West London and the lives of four individuals that intersect in various ways. Zadie almost broke my partner and I up as I would constantly read him passages from the novel and sigh "What a creative and empathic mind could create such a novel." He would faux exclaim, "Bloody hell Jaidee I'm going to read the
B the BookAddict
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: from Shane's books/reviews.
Stunningly original, NW is a kaleidoscope of city life and particularly the lives of four people–stark, beautiful, chaotic, brutal, electric and intense. Very few reviewers have written a construct of the story and neither will I. I will say that when I finished reading NW, I was surprised to find myself still in my own living room and not in north-west London: such is Smith's talent for capturing the reader's imagination. Some thoughts and/or quotes by the characters are:

Meanwhile parents hav
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
Barry Pierce
I've discussed this before but I truly feel sorry for Zadie Smith. She didn't ask to be the most hyped name in contemporary British fiction. Yes, we all loved White Teeth, but that novel is coming up on its twentieth anniversary in a couple years and Smith has still yet to match it.

NW is typical Smith fodder. A load of Londoners all grow up together, their lives take separate paths and we follow them as they sit around and talk about how things can never be like they were. Actually, now that I
Lee Klein
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
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a fabulous observation early on when Smith identifies swearing as a means often of improving the rhythm of a sentence. I’d never thought of this before but it’s so true. Cussing as a tribute to Shakespeare!

In fact Smith is consistently brilliant at contemporary social observation, at drawing attention to new and revealing speech patterns and behavioural quirks. For example here’s a piece of social choreography that didn’t exist in, say, EM Forster’s time: “To get a laugh Felix high-five
...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 West 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 he ...more
Gary  the Bookworm
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Tom LA
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 Form. 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 story th
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf-abandoned, 2016, uk
This was a weird read. At times I couldnt put it down but at other times I struggled to pick it back up.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
John Purcell
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 u ...more
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london
Four characters who all grow up on the same estate in the London borough of Willesden and who, as adults, are all ultimately linked by one event that takes place there.

Leah and Natalie are best friends with that inevitable period of falling out for a couple of years. They are of the same generation as my own daughter so at times I felt like I was given an insight into aspects of her secret life, one or two a little worrying! This friendship was movingly detailed. To begin with we read about Lea
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Eons ago, in my ante gr days, I picked up Zadie's (because "Smith" is ambiguous, and "Ms Smith" doesn't work like "Ms Young" does ; but I'm not really happy either with saying "Dorothy Richardson" just because that one guy wrote The First Novel (knot!)) White Teeth looking for those kinds of novels which came after Infinite Jest. I also read Egger's first thing ; but didn't see my way forward with him. Zadie had that zing, that promise thing. But beyond her collection of essays it took me many y ...more
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
Brown Girl Reading
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
Jennifer (aka EM)
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to four-star this even though it's landing for me somewhere between a three and four, primarily because what I enjoyed does not quite make up for what I didn't enjoy or understand.

I realize this is a flimsy premise upon which to base a rating, but the end times are here and I'm not much inclined to worry about the little things, y'know?

So here's a quasi-review filled with unsupported statements that will sound more definitive than I intend, and questions that I throw out there for othe
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time, as well as two collections of essays, Changing My Mind and Feel Free. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Ta ...more

Articles featuring this book

The acclaimed author of White Teeth again taps into London's pell-mell rhythm in her new tragi-comic novel, NW, told in the city's multicultural...
35 likes · 8 comments
“I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me.” 70 likes
“Happiness is not an absolute value. It is a state of comparison.” 49 likes
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