NW by Zadie Smith

Posted December 6, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 8 Comments

NW by Zadie SmithTitle: NW (Goodreads)
Author: Zadie Smith
Published: Hamish Hamilton, 2013
Pages: 296
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Living in the Caldwell housing estate found in North West London, the only plan was to get out and go somewhere else. Thirty years later, Caldwell kids have all moved on with their varying degrees of success. Living streets apart, their worlds collide, showing them that the people they once were and are now, can suddenly unravel.

NW has been labelled as a tragicomedy, which means the author will try to cut overly dramatic and tragic lives will a bit of humour and possibly a happy ending. I felt like this revealed too much about the novel; I always expected everything to turn out well for these four Londoners.  The term recherché postmodernism (or hysterical realism) was coined by literary critic James Wood to describe this type of contemporary fiction, in particular the works of Zadie Smith. Has states, this is “a literary genre typified by a strong contrast between elaborately absurd prose, plotting, or characterisation and careful, detailed investigations of real specific social phenomena.”

This gives us a sense of what to expect in a Zadie Smith novel “[and] turn fiction into social theory” (James Wood, 2000). I have to admit that this is the first of Smith’s novels that I read and picked this as my first simply because it was the first time I heard of her and it was available at my local library. In hindsight, maybe starting with White Teeth might have been a better choice but at least I know I’ve experienced Smith’s style without going to her most celebrated novel.

This felt like an experimental novel that had a lot to offer and has some interesting insights into a low social economical part of London. It tried to analyse the social progress of the four main protagonists as they try to be successful in life. Not the easiest book to read while I was struggling to remain focused and climb out of a slump. There are a lot of ideas jammed into a novel full of ever changing styles; yet NW remained lyrical and poetic through it all.

I wish I had better focus through this book, I feel like there was a lot I missed out, what I did get from the book was enjoyable. It is a weird experience enjoying a book but not feeling like reading at the same time. I think it does affect my opinion of NW but I’m trying hard to avoid letting personal opinions cloud my judgment on great writing. Sure, reviewing and enjoyment of a book are based on person opinions but I feel that I need to remove emotions and read more critically. NW was interesting and I hope to read more Zadie Smith in the future.

8 responses to “NW by Zadie Smith

  1. tanya boughtflower

    White Teeth is on my must read list for 2014. I’ve read On Beauty by her and loved it, so I feel i need to read the novel that made her. If i like it I’ll also give NW a try.

  2. I own two of Zadie’s books (White Teeth and On Beauty) but have yet to read either one of them. Her books don’t seem to be the easiest reads so I keep saving them for a day I’m able to handle them. Someday. ha.

  3. Marie

    White Teeth is the only Zadie Smith I’ve read, and it’s one of my favourites – I’m not sure what’s been holding me back from reading more by her. I’d definitely recommend giving that one a go. It’s great and quite an easy read.

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