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NW Hardcover – 27 Aug 2012

3.1 out of 5 stars 203 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (27 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144145
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A triumph... As Smith threads together her characters' inner and outer worlds, every sentence sings." -"The Guardian"
Praise for "On Beauty"
"A thoroughly original tale...wonderfully engaging, wonderfully observed... alive with the cacophony of urban life and animated by a vibrant sense of how people live and talk... [with] her instinctive storytelling gifts, her uncanny ear for dialogue and her magical access to her characters' inner lives... she possesses an ability to inhabit with equal ease the point of view of children, adolescents and the middle-aged... Ms. Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice--at once authoritative and nonchalant, and capacious enough to accommodate high moral seriousness, laid-back humor and virtually everything in between--and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane." --Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"
"Oh happy day when a writer as gifted as Zadie Smith fulfills her early promise with a novel as accomplished, substantive and penetrating as "On Beauty." It's a thing of beauty indeed... She thrillingly balances engaging ideas with equally engaging characters...[and] evident throughout is Smith's droll humor." --"Los Angeles"" Times"
"[A] beautiful novel... an ambitious, warm and bending portrayal of people who know little certainty and treasure that which they can find." --"Newsday "
"Short-listed for this year's Man Booker Prize, "On Beauty "is a rollicking satire of the sacred pieties laid bare when a university confronts thorny issues of race, class and privilege Chummy and bighearted, it is also a tremendously good read... Great fun." --"The San Francisco Chronicle"
Praise for "White Teeth"
"A preternaturally gifted new writer [with] a voice that's street-smart and learned, sassy and philosophical all at the same time." -Michiko Kakutani, "The N

"Absolutely brilliant... So electrically authentic, it reads like surveillance transcripts."
--Lev Grossman, "TIME"
"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
--Ron Charles, "The Washington Post"
"A marvelously accomplished work, perhaps her most polished yet."
--Laura Miller, "Salon"
"A triumph... As Smith threads together her characters' inner and outer worlds, every sentence sings."
--"The Guardian"
""NW" offers a nuanced, disturbing exploration of the boundaries, some porous, some impenetrable, between people living cheek by jowl in urban centers where the widening gap between haves and have-nots has created chasms into which we're all in danger of falling."
--NPR.org
"A powerful portrait of class and identity in multicultural London. "
--"Entertainment Weekly"
"One of the most interesting portrayals of 30- something womanhood that I've come across in a long time. For other readers, Smith's brilliant eye and idiosyncratic ear should be ample enticement."
--"Bloomberg News"
"A master class in freestyle fiction writing. Smith mashes up voices and vignettes, poetry and instant messaging, bedroom preferences and murder, and keeps it all from collapsing into incoherent mush with deft, dry wit. Smith defines characters worth reading."
--"Newsday"
"Smith's masterful ability to suspend all these bits and parts in the amber which is London refracts light, history, and the humane beauty of seeing everything at once."
--"Publishers Weekly"
"In "NW," Smith offers a robust novel bursting with life a timely exploration of money, morals, class and authenticity that asks if we are ever truly the sole authors of our own fate."
--"BookPage"
Praise for "On Beauty"

"["NW"] is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real."
--Anne Enright, "The New York Times Book Review"
"Absolutely brilliant... So electrically authentic, it reads like surveillance transcripts."
--Lev Grossman, "TIME"
"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
--Ron Charles, "The Washington Post"
"A marvelously accomplished work, perhaps her most polished yet."
--Laura Miller, "Salon"
"A triumph... As Smith threads together her characters' inner and outer worlds, every sentence sings."
--"The Guardian"
"Smith's fiction has never been this deadly, direct, or economical... Where gifts are concerned, Smith is generous with hers; she writes, one feels, with our pleasure in mind... "NW" is Zadie Smith's riskiest, meanest, most political and deeply felt book--but it all feels so effortless. She dazzles."
--Parul Sehgal, "Bookforum
"
""NW" offers a nuanced, disturbing exploration of the boundaries, some porous, some impenetrable, between people living cheek by jowl in urban centers where the widening gap between haves and have-nots has created chasms into which we're all in danger of falling."
--NPR.org
"A powerful portrait of class and identity in multicultural London. "
--"Entertainment Weekly"
"One of the most interesting portrayals of 30- something womanhood that I've come across in a long time. For other readers, Smith's brilliant eye and idiosyncratic ear should be ample enticement."
--"Bloomberg News"
"A master class in freestyle fiction writing. Smith mashes up voices and vignettes, poetry and instant messaging, bedroom preferences and murder, and keeps it all from collapsing into incoherent mush with deft, dry wit. Smith defines characte

"This is a book in which you never know how things will come together or what will happen next... "NW" represents a deliberate undoing; an unpacking of Smith's abundant narrative gifts to find a deeper truth, audacious and painful as that truth may be. The result is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real."
--Anne Enright, "The New York Times Book Review"
"A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model... Like Zadie Smith's much-acclaimed predecessor "White Teeth "(2000), NW is an urban epic."
--Joyce Carol Oates, "The New York Review of Books"
"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
--Ron Charles, "The Washington Post"
"Innovative and moving... This is a rich novel, as crammed with voices and layered with history and pop culture as is London itself. Smith's flair for dialogue reaches a new height in "NW," as she conveys the rhythms and diction of a variety of Londoners with wit and acuity. The story of what happens inside a person when she rises above the situation she was born into was of interest to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, among countless other novelists. Zadie Smith has delivered her contribution to this literary tradition with aplomb."
--"Dallas Morning News
""Smith has never been a writer who travels directly from A to B... Smith is not interested in exploring the unbroken line of cause and effect. What "NW" does offer, in abundance, is the sense of being plunged with great immediacy into the lives of these characters and their neighborhood. How wonderful to have a new version of London to explore."
--"Boston Globe
""If our everyday world suddenly turns dark, zany and lyrically weird one day, it's probably because Zadie Smith h

A "New York Times" and "Washington Post "Notable Book of 2012
"This is a book in which you never know how things will come together or what will happen next... "NW" represents a deliberate undoing; an unpacking of Smith's abundant narrative gifts to find a deeper truth, audacious and painful as that truth may be. The result is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real."
--Anne Enright, "The New York Times Book Review"
"A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model... Like Zadie Smith's much-acclaimed predecessor "White Teeth "(2000), "NW" is an urban epic."
--Joyce Carol Oates, "The New York Review of Books"
"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
--Ron Charles, "The Washington Post"
"Innovative and moving... This is a rich novel, as crammed with voices and layered with history and pop culture as is London itself. Smith's flair for dialogue reaches a new height in "NW," as she conveys the rhythms and diction of a variety of Londoners with wit and acuity. The story of what happens inside a person when she rises above the situation she was born into was of interest to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, among countless other novelists. Zadie Smith has delivered her contribution to this literary tradition with aplomb."
--"Dallas Morning News"
"Smith has never been a writer who travels directly from A to B... Smith is not interested in exploring the unbroken line of cause and effect. What "NW" does offer, in abundance, is the sense of being plunged with great immediacy into the lives of these characters and their neighborhood. How wonderful to have a new version of London to explore."
--"Boston Globe"
"If our everyday world suddenly turns d

One of" The New York Times Book Review"'s 10 Best Books of 2012
One of "TIME's "Top 10 Fiction Books of 2012
One of "The Wall Street Journal's "Best 10 Fiction Books of 2012
A "New York Times" and "Washington Post "Notable Book of 2012
"This is a book in which you never know how things will come together or what will happen next... "NW" represents a deliberate undoing; an unpacking of Smith's abundant narrative gifts to find a deeper truth, audacious and painful as that truth may be. The result is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real."
--Anne Enright, "The New York Times Book Review"
"A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model... Like Zadie Smith's much-acclaimed predecessor "White Teeth "(2000), "NW" is an urban epic."
--Joyce Carol Oates, "The New York Review of Books"
"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
--Ron Charles, "The Washington Post"
"Innovative and moving... This is a rich novel, as crammed with voices and layered with history and pop culture as is London itself. Smith's flair for dialogue reaches a new height in "NW," as she conveys the rhythms and diction of a variety of Londoners with wit and acuity. The story of what happens inside a person when she rises above the situation she was born into was of interest to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, among countless other novelists. Zadie Smith has delivered her contribution to this literary tradition with aplomb."
--"Dallas Morning News"
"Smith has never been a writer who travels directly from A to B... Smith is not interested in exploring the unbroken line of cause and effect. What "NW" does offer, in abundance, is the sense of being plunged with great

A 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
One of"The New York Times Book Review"'s10 BestBooks of 2012
One of "TIME's "Top 10 Fiction Books of 2012
One of "The Wall Street Journal's"Best 10 Fiction Books of 2012
A "New York Times" and "Washington Post "Notable Book of 2012
"This is a book in which you never know how things will come together or what will happen next... "NW" represents a deliberate undoing; an unpacking of Smith s abundant narrative gifts to find a deeper truth, audacious and painful as that truth may be. The result is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real."
Anne Enright, "The New York Times Book Review"
"A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model... Like Zadie Smith s much-acclaimed predecessor "White Teeth "(2000), "NW" is an urban epic."
Joyce Carol Oates, "The New York Review of Books"
"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
Ron Charles, "The Washington Post"
"Innovative and moving... This is a rich novel, as crammed with voices and layered with history and pop culture as is London itself. Smith s flair for dialogue reaches a new height in "NW," as she conveys the rhythms and diction of a variety of Londoners with wit and acuity. The story of what happens inside a person when she rises above the situation she was born into was of interest to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, among countless other novelists. Zadie Smith has delivered her contribution to this literary tradition with aplomb."
"Dallas Morning News"
"Smith has never been a writer who travels directly from A to B... Smith is not interested in exploring the unbroken line of cause and effect. What "NW" does offer, in abundance, is the sense of being plunged with great immediacy into the lives of these characters and their neighborhood. How wonderful to have a new version of London to explore."
"Boston Globe"
"If our everyday world suddenly turns dark, zany and lyrically weird one day, it's probably because Zadie Smith has learned how to control us all. In "NW," Ms. Smith takes her courageous forays into the vernacular to new heights, using perspectives that are perhaps more native to her but in a form that feels brand new."
"Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"
"Zadie Smith is not merely one of Britain's finest younger writers, but also one of the English-speaking world's best chroniclers of race, class, and identity in urban confines. Smith remains fearless, and there are moments that astonish. Her ambition and talent continue to awe."
"Philadelphia Inquirer"
"["NW" is] a real sign of how Smith has developed and grown. It is a terrific novel: deeply ambitious, an attempt to use literature as a kind of excavation, while at the same time remaining intensely readable, intensely human, a portrait of the way we live."
"Los Angeles Times "
"A marvelously accomplished work, perhaps her most polished yet."
Laura Miller, "Salon"
"Atriumph... As Smith threads together her characters' inner and outer worlds, every sentence sings."
"The Guardian"
"Smith's fiction has never been this deadly, direct, or economical... Where gifts are concerned, Smith is generous with hers; she writes, one feels, with our pleasure in mind... "NW" is Zadie Smith s riskiest, meanest, most political and deeply felt book--but it all feels so effortless. She dazzles."
Parul Sehgal, "Bookforum "
""NW" offers a nuanced, disturbing exploration of the boundaries, some porous, some impenetrable, between people living cheek by jowl in urban centers where the widening gap between haves and have-nots has created chasms into which we're all in danger of falling."
NPR.org
"A powerful portrait of class and identity in multicultural London. "
"Entertainment Weekly"
"One of the most interesting portrayals of 30- something womanhood that I've come across in a long time. For other readers, Smith's brilliant eye and idiosyncratic ear should be ample enticement."
"Bloomberg News"
"A master class in freestyle fiction writing. Smith mashes up voices and vignettes, poetry and instant messaging, bedroom preferences and murder, and keeps it all from collapsing into incoherent mush with deft, dry wit. Smith defines characters worth reading."
"Newsday"
"In "NW," Smith offers a robust novel bursting with life a timely exploration of money, morals, class and authenticity that asks if we are ever truly the sole authors of our own fate."
"BookPage" Praise"

A 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
One ofThe New York Times Book Review's10 BestBooks of 2012
One of TIME's Top 10 Fiction Books of 2012
One of The Wall Street Journal'sBest 10 Fiction Books of 2012
A New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book of 2012

"This is a book in which you never know how things will come together or what will happen next... NW represents a deliberate undoing; an unpacking of Smith s abundant narrative gifts to find a deeper truth, audacious and painful as that truth may be. The result is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real."
Anne Enright, The New York Times Book Review
"A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model... Like Zadie Smith s much-acclaimed predecessor White Teeth (2000), NW is an urban epic."
Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books
"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Innovative and moving... This is a rich novel, as crammed with voices and layered with history and pop culture as is London itself. Smith s flair for dialogue reaches a new height in NW, as she conveys the rhythms and diction of a variety of Londoners with wit and acuity. The story of what happens inside a person when she rises above the situation she was born into was of interest to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, among countless other novelists. Zadie Smith has delivered her contribution to this literary tradition with aplomb."
Dallas Morning News
"Smith has never been a writer who travels directly from A to B... Smith is not interested in exploring the unbroken line of cause and effect. What NW does offer, in abundance, is the sense of being plunged with great immediacy into the lives of these characters and their neighborhood. How wonderful to have a new version of London to explore."
Boston Globe
"If our everyday world suddenly turns dark, zany and lyrically weird one day, it's probably because Zadie Smith has learned how to control us all. In NW, Ms. Smith takes her courageous forays into the vernacular to new heights, using perspectives that are perhaps more native to her but in a form that feels brand new."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Zadie Smith is not merely one of Britain's finest younger writers, but also one of the English-speaking world's best chroniclers of race, class, and identity in urban confines. Smith remains fearless, and there are moments that astonish. Her ambition and talent continue to awe."
Philadelphia Inquirer
"[NW is] a real sign of how Smith has developed and grown. It is a terrific novel: deeply ambitious, an attempt to use literature as a kind of excavation, while at the same time remaining intensely readable, intensely human, a portrait of the way we live."
Los Angeles Times
"A marvelously accomplished work, perhaps her most polished yet."
Laura Miller, Salon
"Atriumph... As Smith threads together her characters' inner and outer worlds, every sentence sings."
The Guardian
"Smith's fiction has never been this deadly, direct, or economical... Where gifts are concerned, Smith is generous with hers; she writes, one feels, with our pleasure in mind... NW is Zadie Smith s riskiest, meanest, most political and deeply felt book--but it all feels so effortless. She dazzles."
Parul Sehgal, Bookforum
"NW offers a nuanced, disturbing exploration of the boundaries, some porous, some impenetrable, between people living cheek by jowl in urban centers where the widening gap between haves and have-nots has created chasms into which we're all in danger of falling."
NPR.org
"A powerful portrait of class and identity in multicultural London. "
Entertainment Weekly
"One of the most interesting portrayals of 30- something womanhood that I've come across in a long time. For other readers, Smith's brilliant eye and idiosyncratic ear should be ample enticement."
Bloomberg News
"A master class in freestyle fiction writing. Smith mashes up voices and vignettes, poetry and instant messaging, bedroom preferences and murder, and keeps it all from collapsing into incoherent mush with deft, dry wit. Smith defines characters worth reading."
Newsday
"In NW, Smith offers a robust novel bursting with life a timely exploration of money, morals, class and authenticity that asks if we are ever truly the sole authors of our own fate."
BookPage" --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975, and still lives in the area. She is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man and On Beauty, and of a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
NW is a brave departure for Zadie Smith and one that could potentially alienate a large proportion of her readership. It is an odd and fragmentary novel, humourless and bland. The melodious prose and multiple plots have given way to a modish Modernism; Dickens's influence has been erased, the 'hysterical realism' utterly subdued. But that is to be expected. Novelists do not have to keep rehashing a working formula, and it says something of Smith's integrity that she has decided to move on. The new style, then, is encapsulated in the narrative's stuttering and spare composition, a complete reversal of the seamless unity of her last three novels.

The novel follows a group of thirtysomethings from the same Caldwell council estate - Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan. Each character carries the burden of urban ennui: Leah is in the midst of an existential crisis, while her closest friend Natalie (formerly Keisha) is a class-conscious barrister seeking some excitement; Felix, however, is a wide boy recovering alcoholic similar to Nathan, who simply shuffles through the pages as a homeless junky. All the usual themes are accounted for (identity, class, race, drugs, love, work, death, guilt, redemption), but as Smith's interest in each character is asymmetrical, it makes the book unbalanced. It flows best as a procession of snapshots replicating the random movements of a city. But, to follow Smith down this structural and experimental route, the characters must be interesting, and sadly they are not.

The depth just isn't there, each one barely knowable. Instead of total characterisation, there are only pointed and evocative shards, the broken bottle approach leaving the process of reassembly in the reader's hands. Such, though, is the way with Modernism.
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Format: Paperback
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 French-African 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 seems designed to show us the style of her thought. We learn that Leah is resisting uncomfortable pressure on her from all sides to get pregnant. We realise that she and Michel have got married hastily, each naive about the other's life plans. While Michel has unexamined patriarchal attitudes embodied in his relationship to Leah, claiming her property, being & body as his own, she has been attracted simply by his beauty and kindness, and for her the relationship is based on lust.

I was struck by the way Leah's encounter with the desperate woman was reconstructed by Michel and her mother, and how this changed her behaviour. This kind of skilfully handled detail built up an impression of her as very passive and naive. I found Leah and her mother Pauline very realistic as white people who have generationally graduated levels of ignorance about race. While Pauline is ridiculous and ignorant in her attitudes, Leah is more subtle, but she is unaware of white privilege; Smith shows this very skilfully though Leah's resentful and self-pitying feelings about her relationship with her co-workers.

Leah narrates encounters with her black friend Natalie and her husband and children. Leah sees her as grown up and her life as meaningful - this is partly conferred by motherhood - only giving birth legitimises a woman's existence, according to the overt & implicit messages Leah constantly receives from husband, mother, friends.
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Format: Hardcover
Modernism is fashionable again. First we had Will Self's 'Umbrella' and now we have Zadie Smith's 'NW'. Both novels use modernist techniques such as stream of consciousness and multiple narratives. Both are set in and around north London. But whereas Self's novel is largely set in the north London suburbs of Barnet, Muswell Hill and East Finchley, Smith's 'NW' moves the dial anti-clockwise and is set in north-west London. Or to be more precise, Willesden. But is 'NW' north west London - or is it 'Nowhere'? A play on 16th century statesman and author Thomas More's famous book about Nowhere - 'Utopia'? If it is, then Smith's utopia is more of a dystopia. Willesden is less the land of milk and honey and more the place of skunk and money. As in many London towns, deprivation lives on the next street to wealth.

The novel revolves around a long friendship: 30-something Natalie (once Keisha) Blake is a successful barrister with two young children from her marriage to handsome banker, Frank. Leah Hanwell, a philosophy graduate, works for a non-profit organisation and lives in a council flat with her Franco-African partner Michel - a man intent on making money through share trading over the Internet. Both Natalie and Leah grew up on the same Caldwell council estate in Willesden. An estate which may well have been responsible for Leah's interest in philosophy since each block is named after an icon of the subject: Smith, Hobbes, Bentham, Locke, Russell. The girls' friendship therefore goes way back, but when we first meet them Leah is irritated by Natalie's social and professional ascendancy as well as her well-attended dinner parties. Natalie has climbed the social ladder whilst Leah has remained pretty much on the first rung. And friction ensues.
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