NW by Zadie Smith
A Novel

82%

34 Critic Reviews

Smith’s previous novels have been exuberantly plotted, and were resolved in a highly “novelistic” way. This book is much more tentative and touching in its conclusions.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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.
 

About Zadie Smith

See more books from this Author
ZADIE SMITH was born in Northwest London in 1975. She is the author of White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and the essay collection Changing My Mind.
 
Published September 4, 2012 by Penguin Books. 418 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Other. Fiction
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for NW
All: 34 | Positive: 27 | Negative: 7

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by ANNE ENRIGHT on Sep 21 2012

Smith’s previous novels have been exuberantly plotted, and were resolved in a highly “novelistic” way. This book is much more tentative and touching in its conclusions.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Aug 26 2012

...“NW” and its paper-doll-like characters do a disservice to this hugely talented author and her copious gifts.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Adam Mars-Jones on Aug 31 2012

The real mystery of NW is that it falls so far short of being a successful novel, though it contains the makings of three or four.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Rachel Cooke on Aug 25 2012

...the wonderful bits more than make up for the less wonderful, and...you should rush to buy this book before the summer is out.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Sep 10 2012

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.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Adam Kirsch on Aug 31 2012

What Ms. Smith offers in this absorbing novel is a study in the limits of freedom, the way family and class constrain the adult selves we make.

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NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Sep 05 2012

With the preposterous ending of "NW," however, Smith has nowhere to go but up.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Aug 30 2012

NW offers a nuanced, disturbing exploration of the boundaries...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.

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Toronto Star

Excellent
Reviewed by Emily Donaldson on Sep 08 2012

As a writer, Smith finally seems perfectly at ease: less like she’s trying to please and more like she’s delighting in her jaw-dropping mastery of language and dialect. This is, hands down, her best novel to date.

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Ellen Wernecke on Sep 17 2012

The literary wunderkind...shows off a pared-down style and cast, but continues to apply significant scrutiny to the world she’s examining.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Anakana Schofield on Sep 07 2012

Smith provokes rigour in her readers; we’re waiting, wanting and we have expectations of her. I won’t forgive her things I might a lesser writer.

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Entertainment Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Rob Brunner on Oct 05 2012

The effect is deliberately disorienting; the reader's discomfort underscores the unease that Smith's characters feel. But she manages to pull it all together.

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by David Ulin on Sep 16 2012

...the power of the novel is that she continually digs beneath these surfaces, exposing not hypocrisy so much as the emptiness that all her characters feel.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Boyd Tonkin on Sep 01 2012

NW delivers all the jostling, aromatic savour and spice of a stroll up Kilburn High Road: the centre of its urban world.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Philip Hensher on Sep 03 2012

It is a joyous, optimistic, angry masterpiece, and no better English novel will be published this year, or, probably, next.

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Huffington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Christina Patterson on Oct 10 2012

She writes, in singing, soaring, street-savvy prose, about a corner of North West London, and the people who call it home.

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The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Margot Livesey on Sep 08 2012

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.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Jenny Hendrix on Sep 21 2012

It's possible that Smith's little yelps of prose are what we have the energy for, nowadays, as moments of feeling extracted from an onslaught of names, objects and information.

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Tyrone Beason on Oct 14 2012

The novel feels messy and unresolved. But that's the urban condition...Every moment presents a new chance to do something great, or make a decision you might regret for the rest of your life.

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Denver Post

Below average
Reviewed by John Broening on Sep 16 2012

The result is...a novel that feels unfinished and brandishes its uncertainties.

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The Daily Beast

Excellent
Reviewed by Lauren Elkin on Sep 02 2012

...NW shows a calmer author at work, one who pays more thoughtful attention to the intersection of place and character.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Aug 28 2012

...if you’re willing to let it work on you, to hear all these voices and allow the details to come into focus when Smith wants them to, you’ll be privy to an extraordinary vision of our age.

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The Millions

Excellent
Reviewed by K. Thomas Kahn on Sep 26 2012

...not only is NW a more poetic and abstract novel, but it is also one that calls iteratively to its reader to “keep up!”

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Chicago Sun Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Carmela Ciuraru on Sep 06 2012

With its abrupt, destabilizing shifts in time, place and voice, the novel is intricately structured — but that is one of its virtues.

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The New York Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Joyce Carol Oates on Sep 27 2012

Zadie Smith’s NW is a boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model.

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Time Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Radhika Jones on Dec 04 2012

...Smith, who has built a solid reputation as a critic, wins points for tackling the big topics...in finely honed scenes that feel honest and human, even when humanity seems in short supply.

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Full Stop

Excellent
Reviewed by Stephanie Bernhard on Sep 10 2012

NW’s real strengths reside in the sprawling, often-Realist tale of a city that Smith can’t quite help telling despite her best efforts.

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New York Observer

Excellent
Reviewed by Eric Banks on Sep 04 2012

...you never can shake the awareness that Ms. Smith is both the conductor of this peculiar trip and the engineer who rigged the tracks

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The Nation

Excellent
Reviewed by Alexandra Schwartz on Nov 20 2012

For all her roiling styles, Smith’s own voice has always floated to the top. It comes through in the quality of her observations, her magpie’s eye for detail, and her ear for dialects and speech patterns of all kinds.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by RACHEL HODIN on Oct 18 2012

By employing a different writing style in each section, Mrs. Smith solidifies each character’s distinct temperament.

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Daily Gazette

Below average
Reviewed by Izzy Kornblatt-Stier on Oct 29 2012

NW is very well written, and there is much to like about it, but ultimately it feels drastically limited by this self-conscious insistence on refusing conventionality.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Anakana Schofield on Sep 07 2012

Smith provokes rigour in her readers; we’re waiting, wanting and we have expectations of her. I won’t forgive her things I might a lesser writer. There’s an exciting sense she has yet to do her best work, but what we see in this book is a writer sensibly pushing the boundaries, finding her form and drilling closer to it.

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Vulture

Below average
Reviewed by Kathryn Schulz on Aug 31 2012

...It’s clear that, stylistically, Smith has left behind the sheltering haven of her earlier work and set off in search of something new. I’m glad to see her trying, even at the expense of failing

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The Grio

Good
Reviewed by Chase Quinn on Sep 16 2012

Smith’s writing, smart and deep, aspires to those works of art that do not simply describe the things people do, but insists we examine why we do them.

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Reader Rating for NW
53%

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