NW by Zadie Smith

  • September 22, 2013 · 2:00 PM
  • Laura's house in Petaluma

Paperback and Kindle ebook are available now.

One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2012. You'll notice that the Amazon reviews run the gamut from loving it to hating it. Most of the one-star reviews complain that it's a difficult, complex book. Since we embrace complexity, let's judge for ourselves. The New York Times gave it two reviews -- one praised it ("that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real"), the other found it lacking. If even the professional critics disagree, I'm sure we'll have varying points of view.

Booklist review: Smith draws on her deepening social and psychological acuity and her intimacy with North West London to portray a quartet of struggling men and women linked by blood, place, affinity, and chance. Of Jamaican descent, Keisha, who renames herself Natalie, is smart, disciplined, ambitious, and duplicitous. Anglo Leah is unconventional, fearful, compassionate, and devious. They were close growing up together in public housing but are now leading somewhat divergent lives. Natalie is a corporate lawyer with a wealthy husband, two children, and a big, flashy house. Leah works for a not-for-profit organization and is married to a sweet French African hairdresser. As girls, they had crushes on schoolmate Nathan; now he’s mired in drugs, violence, and rage. Noble and ambitious biracial Felix crosses their paths just as his radiant integrity and kindness become liabilities. With exceptional discernment, wit, empathy, and artistry, Smith creates a breathtakingly intricate mesh of audible and interior voices while parsing family relationships, class and racial divides, marriage, and friendship. In this quintessential twenty-first-century urban novel depicting a vibrant, volatile multicultural world, Smith calibrates the gravitational forces of need and desire, brutality and succor, randomness and design, dissonance and harmony, and illuminates both heartbreaking and affirming truths about the paradoxes of human complexity. 



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  • Jesse S.

    Thank you all for an uplifting, insightful discussion of a difficult book, as always I am amazed at what I learn...

    2 · September 23, 2013

  • Joan P.

    This discussion dazzled me with its depth and insight. We all learned from each other, which is the beauty of a group like this.

    2 · September 22, 2013

    • Shawna

      I wish I could watch what I missed on You Tube. :)

      1 · September 23, 2013

    • Lisa S.

      Now that would have been fun! But then I should have finished the book. I'm getting started on the next one now!

      1 · September 23, 2013

  • Diane G.

    This was everything I hoped a book club would be. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it. I look forward to more Meetups with this great group!

    3 · September 23, 2013

  • Sarah L.

    I may or may not make it today. My dog is old and ill and cannot be left to his own devices as he is at this current moment. Is okay to show up a little late? I've really enjoyed this novel.

    September 22, 2013

    • Janine

      Hi Sarah, sorry to have missed you and so sorry about your dog. Please keep us posted how he is doing. Take care.

      September 22, 2013

    • Diane G.

      That's so hard. :( My pup and I are sending you both good wishes.

      September 23, 2013

  • Leslie M.

    I had a good time. Very stimulating conversation and I gained more insight about the book!

    1 · September 22, 2013

  • Christine O.

    We have such a great Meetup group! Interesting, smart, fun.

    2 · September 22, 2013

  • Janine

    The conversations and discussions we had helped illuminate many aspects of this challenging, innovative novel.

    1 · September 22, 2013

  • Lisa S.

    I have been so swamped with work I haven't been able to get past the Kindle sample to read this. Can anyone chime in on whether this is a not-to-miss novel that I should apply the next week of evenings to reading? I don't want to miss the meeting, but I'll need to do some serious reading to make it.

    Thanks!

    September 13, 2013

    • Christine O.

      I started reading the book in hardback, but switched to Audible and am loving the book. I find the audible much more compelling and clear. If, like me, you drive a lot and have time to listen to it before Sunday, it's great listening!

      2 · September 17, 2013

    • Joan P.

      The Audible version is beautifully narrated and really gives the sense of the style of the book. I listened to the book that way, then gave it a second reading via ebook, because I was confused by just listening. It's a dense, complex book -- it could be the text for a semester lit course. (Am I overstating?)

      1 · September 21, 2013

  • Joan P.

    A sincere "Thank you!" to all of you who updated your RSVPs in the last few days. (We went from 17 to 11.) While we'll miss you if you have to cancel, it's courteous to the host to know how many chairs to set up, and it saves me time preparing the name badges. Much appreciated.

    2 · September 21, 2013

  • Shawna

    I'm sorry to miss visiting my fellow novel lovers, but I won't have enough of the book read in time for tomorrow's meeting. Although I had been looking forward NW, it hasn't really drawn me in. Having paid $ for it, I will finish it eventually. I trust that you'll have a great discussion, because we almost always do. :-)

    1 · September 21, 2013

  • Joan P.

    I struggled with this book, keeping track of who was who and what was going on with each of them. I found that a second reading helped tremendously. If you're on a first reading now, I know that advice won't be helpful this close to our meeting!

    1 · September 17, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Ms Smith is not my favorite author. NW is a particular jumble that produced in me no motivation to meander through. See you in Oct!

    September 16, 2013

  • Joan P.

    Highly recommended: Slate's podcast discussion of NW -- a smart, perceptive discussion:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/the_audio_book_club/2012/11/zadie_smith_s_nw_discussion_podcast_and_book_club_guide.html

    September 15, 2013

  • Joan P.

    To read or listen to interviews with Zadie Smith discussing this book, Google "interview zadie smith nw" and you'll find several. I found this podcast particularly interesting, with ZS reading an excerpt as well as discussing the book:
    http://www.theguardian.com/books/audio/2013/jul/26/zadie-smith-nw-london-podcast.
    (Spoiler alert: Best to finish the book before listening to this one.)

    2 · September 14, 2013

  • Leslie M.

    Thanks!

    September 12, 2013

  • Joan P.

    Welcome to the new members! I'll email the address the week of the event, after the RSVPs have settled down. Be sure to check that yours is accurate, everyone!

    September 12, 2013

  • Leslie M.

    This will be my first book club experience. I love to read and will meet you all on the 22nd! Thank you! Leslie

    2 · September 4, 2013

    • Leslie M.

      HI, I still need the address of where we are meeting. Look forward to meeting everyone!

      September 12, 2013

  • Diane G.

    It's my first book club experience too, and I'm really looking forward to it! Thanks! Diane

    2 · September 12, 2013

  • Sarah L.

    Just moved to Sonoma County from Oakland and am looking to meet like-minded folk. I love to talk books more than just about anything!

    2 · September 10, 2013

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