NW: A Novel Zadie Smith
I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time writing this review. It’s taking me longer to write about than to read, and it took FOREVER to read this book.
We start with Leah, who falls for a scam, who doesn’t want the kids her husband is desperate for, who thinks that if she still acts like she’s 18 (because she still feels like she’s 18) then she won’t have to grow up. Leah’s section of the book is choppy, much like Leah’s mind. Part is in poetry.
Felix’s section is next, told in more traditional narrative style, covering a day in his life as he visits his dad, buys a car, and attempts to finally end things with an old girlfriend (because things have gotten that serious with his current girlfriend.) And then it goes horribly wrong.
The final section is Natalie’s, Leah’s best friend from childhood. Natalie is the most successful, having left behind the council estate and gone to college and law school and now leads an upper middle class life. But she leads her life the way she thinks she’s supposed to, and can’t find herself in there anymore, and starts looking for ways to feel something. Natalie’s section is mostly told in very brief vignettes, covering most of her life until the present.
All three stories overlap, timeline-wise. There isn’t much of a plot, it’s more like three character sketches, where most things are shown, rather than told.
I say this book took me forever to read, and it did. Part of that had to do with my discovery of a certain game called Tower Madness. Part of it had to do with the fact it wasn’t a rush-through-breathlessly-to-see-what-happens next type book. I did, however, like it. I liked it a lot. I enjoyed the shifting narrative styles. As they changed with character, it didn’t seem too much like “uh-oh, your craft is showing!” It’s also a refreshing challenge to read something where so much is left unexplained, left for the reader to figure out by reading closely. As someone who reads a lot of fiction, where this isn’t done as much, it took a while for me to get used to that. It was a difficult book for me, and I enjoy a challenge. Most of the stuff I read tends to make sure you know what's going on. Sometimes a little too much. I read a lot of plot-heavy books (and nonfiction, where everything should be spelled out.) I'm hoping with my Outstanding Books for the College Bound, I'm going to step out of what I normally read. This book reminded me that I like being challenged in my reading by craft/form. (I don't enjoy as much when I'm challenged by content.)
Book Provided by... my local library
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