Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A triumph....As Smith threads together her characters' inner and outer worlds, every sentence sings." The Guardian
"Absolutely brilliant....So electrically authentic, it reads like surveillance transcripts." Lev Grossman, Time
"Endlessly fascinating...remarkable....The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate." Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"A marvelously accomplished work, perhaps her most polished yet." Laura Miller, Salon
"NW offers a nuanced, disturbing exploration of the boundaries, some porous, some impenetrable, 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." NPR.org
"A powerful portrait of class and identity in multicultural London." Entertainment Weekly
"One of the most interesting portrayals of 30-something womanhood that I've come across in a long time. For other readers, Smith's brilliant eye and idiosyncratic ear should be ample enticement." Bloomberg News
"A master class in freestyle fiction writing. Smith mashes up voices and vignettes, poetry and instant messaging, bedroom preferences and murder, and keeps it all from collapsing into incoherent mush with deft, dry wit. Smith defines characters worth reading." Newsday
"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." Publishers Weekly
"In NW, Smith offers a robust novel bursting with life: a timely exploration of money, morals, class and authenticity that asks if we are ever truly the sole authors of our own fate." BookPage
A new novel from Zadie Smith, set in Northwest London.
Somewhere in Northwest London stands Caldwell housing estate, relic of 70s' urban planning. Five identical blocks, deliberately named: Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Locke, and Russell. If you grew up here, the plan was to get out and get on, to something bigger, better. Thirty years later ex-Caldwell kids Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan have all made it out, with varying degrees of success — whatever that means. Living only streets apart, they occupy separate worlds and navigate an atomized city where few wish to be their neighbor's keeper. Then one April afternoon a stranger comes to Leah's door seeking help, disturbing the peace, and forcing Leah out of her isolation....
From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, in this delicate, devastating novel of encounters, the main streets hide the back alleys, and taking the high road can sometimes lead to a dead end. Zadie Smith's NW brilliantly depicts the modern urban zone — familiar to city dwellers everywhere — in a tragicomic novel as mercurial as the city itself.
About the 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.