NW // Zadie Smith
I’ve read NW three times now. The first time I began it I gave up. It was written in an unusual style, it was complicated, and I couldn’t really get into it. Then, when I had a long summer ahead of me last year I sat down to revisit it and suddenly I was hooked. NW follows the lives of four North Londoners, Natalie, Leah, Nathan and Felix, who share the common fact they grew up on the same council estate and differ in their directions in life. A novel about friendship, social mobility, class and ethnicity, Smith (like in White Teeth) captures exactly what city life is like in the twenty first century. As she does this, the style of her novel is both complex and rewarding. She engages with a modernist format (there are similarities to James Joyce’s Ulysses), and at times her words float around the page in a stream of consciousness. The stories of her characters intertwine in a way that human relationships too intertwine. It’s a real beauty and will forever be described as one of the best books I think I’ve ever read.