New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012
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
This is the story of a city.
The northwest corner of a city. Here you’ll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all. And many people in between.
Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds.
And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system. Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwell’s door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, forcing Leah out of her isolation
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is 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 town-dwellers everywhere Zadie Smith’s NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: Zadie Smith's NW, an ode to the neighborhoods of northwest London where the author came of age, feels like a work in progress. For most writers, that would be a detriment. But in this case, the sense of imperfection feels like a privilege: a peek inside the fascinating brain of one of the most interesting writers of her generation. Smith (White Teeth, On Beauty) plays extensively with form and style--moving from screenplay-like dialogue to extremely short stories, from the first person to the third--but her characters don't matter as much as their setting. Smith is a master of literary cinematography. It's easy to picture her creations, flaws ablaze, as they walk the streets of London. --Alexandra Foster