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NW by Zadie Smith

May 29, 2013

NWI really liked Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, so I was excited when her newest novel, NW, was released last fall. Some of my book club friends read it recently, so after seeing it with great reviews in my Goodreads feed, I picked up a copy at the library.

Reviews for NW say that it’s a story of a city, or a story of four friends, but I really thought it was the story of Leah and Natalie.

We meet them separately – Leah first, with her hairdresser husband and their lovable dog. They live in the poorer part of the city and we see two incidents, one at the very start of the book, that clearly illustrate how living in this neighborhood impacts their lives. And while Leah and her husband are considering kids, there is something not quite right with their relationship.

In the second section of NW, we meet Leah’s childhood friend Keisha, who has changed her name to Natalie. We learn a bit about their childhoods together and see Keisha go off to college, get married, and become a lawyer. Although successful and a member of the nicer neighborhood in town, Natalie’s idyllic life isn’t what it seems.

Leah and Keisha/Natalie run into other childhood friends, Felix and Nathan, which is I guess why some people say the book is about four friends. But Felix and Nathan have such small roles that that didn’t seem to make much sense to me. Their presence is interesting and adds to the story, but to me, NW is simply about Leah and Natalie, childhood friends who now face the challenges of adulthood. Are they facing them together? That’s debatable too, but it makes for an interesting story, that’s for sure.

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