21st Century Literature discussion

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2012 Book Discussions > NW - Visitation: 285 - 294, No Spoilers Please! (December 2012)

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message 1: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Does this feel like a satisfactory ending?


message 2: by Carl (new)

Carl | 286 comments Good question. No would be my answer. To my mind, the author used empty plot gimmicks to try to offset the plotless quality of the majority of the book. I love books without defined plots, but what makes them work is for me to be able to identify and tie the characters to what happens in life. Smith may be saying that modern Londoners lead meaningless existences or maybe she didn't want us to get character from these people, but either way, it was a rather empty reading experience. I do have to say that I enjoyed some of the modern style aspects but that is mechanics, not art.


message 3: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I think it's a mess. A novel with the makings of several good novels. And yet. And yet. I still enjoyed it even though Smith was reduced - IMHO - to effectively busking in the final section. Such a pity.

My overriding impression is that the fragments of Natalie and Leah, which create mosaic portraits of both, also alert us to the gaps between - of how much we don't know about them.

So, what's this novel about? Is it asking who makes it out of Caldwell and why; and whether it’s possible to ever entirely escape it?


message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 738 comments Mod
@Sophia: Your first paragraph pretty much sums up my feelings as well. The novel started off as spring rain and warm sunshine, full of life and the promise of summer blossoms. It ended with early winter gloom and me scratching my head. Not exactly a satisfactory ending, and yet I am strangely satisfied with the bursts of brilliance that shot across the early book like artillery flares against a night sky.

I'm left with very little idea of what the book is about. From reading secondary material, I'm under the impression that Smith is engaged in a discussion over authenticity that spills far beyond the confines of a book. But should we really need to know an author's story or background to understand a book? And what is she saying by creating a neighbourhood where only Nathan Bogle seems authentic, and from which there appears to be no escape? Although I'm evidently frustrated and cynical about the ending, I also can't help but notice how none of the critical reviews I've read so far have anything positive to say about the ending.


message 5: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I'm left wondering if this isn't a rather depressing book. Smith seems to be saying that few of us get what we want in life and that even if we do we are still unlikely to be satisfied!

I don't think we need to know a great deal about the author's life and background to understand this book; or am I privileged, because I’m British?


message 6: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1672 comments Mod
I finished the book last night, and found myself baffled by the ending. Thinking about it over night, I could see parallels between the beginning and ending, Keisha and Leah making an anonymous call and giggling. I think there is some message to the effect that you never completely escape your roots, and people you went to school with as a child/teen know you in a way that people you meet later in life never will. I still feel like I must be missing something, and there must be more to the ending that I just don't get. So, in answer to Sophia's question, no, this did not feel like a satisfactory ending.


message 7: by Andy (new)

Andy | 3 comments Sometimes I just get taking in by the characters and don't care much about where the plot goes. In NW I was taken in by the depth of characters, the way the story was told and language. I didn't stop to think until now what actally happened...

So now that I think about it, I was OK with the ending. I liked the last line "disguising her voice with her voice." which to me indicated that Keisha was being swept along in her life and was not able to be herself but was as much herself as her environment allowed.

I liked that this feeling of being yourself but not is something that I believe from a 20-30 something in any culture. A bit like sleepwalking then you wake up and say "How did I get here, this is not my beautiful wife" (sorry Talking Heads reference from my 20's).

Also, it was interesting that there was another incident at the end that could/may sweep the two along another 20 years. Anyone else tied these two incidences together?


message 8: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Mod
I loved the Talking Heads reference!


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