Friday, February 22, 2013

NW by Zadie Smith

 I just finished reading NW by Zadie Smith and I'm not sure how to describe it.  It is a big book, an important book by one of the freshest voices of a new generation of writers.  I asked for the book for Christmas because reviewers compare its literary style to James Joyce - a comparison that has merit.   But her style is also analogous to video game structure, or rap music, or maybe jazz.  The title refers to the London's north west corner, where central characters Natalie (aka Keisha), Leah, Nathan and Felix grow up together in public housing (British terminology = council estate).  I was drawn into the complicated lives of these characters and found the basic thread pretty easy to follow although the narrative voice changes frequently - as does the pace, the setting, the tone and even the font.  The book is gritty, dismal and urban, and although it is distinctly British, it is filled with universal truth that will allow it to stand the test of time.  I honestly believe it may be Zadie Smith's masterpiece novel.  Coincidently, the line that made me pause near the very end - "This is one of the things you learn in a courtroom: people generally get what they deserve." - is a variation of "We accept the love we think we deserve" from The Perks of Being a Wallflower from my previous review.  Again, great literature rings with human truth.


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