NW by Zadie Smith (2 out of 5)
Another large image for another book. Someday I’ll get the hang of this imaging the correct size to not take up an entire half a page of a blog. Well, I was at a loss the last few days on what book to read next, since I seem to be reading them at the rate of more than I have in months. I saw this coming out in paperback (today, actually), so I checked it out.
I love Zadie Smith. White Teeth is still in my top 50 favorite books ever. The Autograph Man was another favorite. On Beauty didn’t bowl me over, but I enjoyed it regardless. I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately they weren’t met this time. I can’t enthusiastically trumpet this book, as I have her other wares.
NW of the title belongs to Northwest London, where Leah, Felix, Nathan, and Natalie are trying to grow up into their adult lives outside the confines of Caldwell, which i garner from the language of the novel, is some sort of public housing establishment in England. Leah is in what amounts to a physical relationship with a handsome young man, and is rethinking her outlook on anything resembling monogamy. Her best friend Natalie is married with two children, but seems as if she secretly yearns for the freedom that Leah has. Of the two, Leah was easier for me to identify with, while Natalie seemed full of secrecy (changing her name is a pretty balls move, usually people do that if they have something to hide), and there’s something about her narrative that makes her unlikable, at least to me. What happens in her story still perplexes me, so I’m not sure I will have any closure with that character. So when you don’t have closure, what do you do? You let that character go. That’s a shame. I wasn’t too upset, because there were still two other stories to tell.
The boys are another story(ies). Felix has gone the downward spiral of the group. He’s a recovering drug addict whose past is threatening his attempts to maintain sobriety. Can he get past it? And more interestingly, what’s his connection to Leah, Natalie, and Nathan? When you get that, wow, that’s a shocker. I’m not being facetious, it truly is one of the more jaw dropping moments in the book. Nathan’s story is similiar to Felix, in that he’s a weed-smoking street survivor who’s just trying to do his day to day routine, which means he’s the polar opposite of the ladies. What happens to the troubled men?
I love Zadie’s usage of language. Her prose is effortless and engaging, despite the fact that the life does indeed feel sucked out of characters that are normally overflowing with it. The chapters are fragmented somewhat, which makes it difficult to connect with the whole book, instead of just parts of it. The disparity of the characters makes you believe that you will connect to them more, but that sense of correlation atrophies quickly. There’s something and a little more missing here, and I’m always going to be down when I finish a book and there’s not that grand vision realized in front of me.