Book Review: NW by Zadie Smith

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 back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end. Depicting the modern urban zone—familiar to city-dwellers everywhere—NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself

Going in I really wanted to like this book more than I ended up liking it. I knew it would be edgy and I knew it would be uncomfortable and it was all of those things, but man oh man this book is just, yikes. It is hard to come up with the right words to say about this one but yikes is. The style of this book is impossible, I have not seen it before and I really hope I don’t see it again because it is really hard to deal with. There are so many characters, so many situations and really nothing gets resolved. This book just leaves you (well me for sure) feeling very just empty and confused. Books should have a beginning, a middle and an end and for me this book really doesn’t.

There are some moments that made it interesting and that is why there are two gems (stars) rewarded. The moment when a character is knifed (I won’t say who so I don’t spoil it too much) is shocking, and it is supposed to be. Watching it unfold in the movie that was made based on the book as well made it even more shocking and jaw dropping. Of course it is supposed to be, the image of someone dying at all but especially for such a pointless reason is not comfortable and never should be.

I guess I can understand why some people love this book, but I just couldn’t really connect at all with it. I might try another book by this author, but if it is the same style I will probably have to give it a pass. Bottom line I really wouldn’t recommend this one.

My Gemstone Rating:


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