NW? Zadie Smith’s new novel? I waited seven years for you. Now that we have finally spent a few days together what am I left with? Was it worth the weight? I say yes.NW is not straight forward storytelling and good thing because given the story I could have thought I was reading a Jodi Picoult novel. Two girls, different classes, different ethnic groups, different side of the tracks, societal issues, race issues, questions about marriage, parenthood and career, then people grow up. It’s the kind of story that when you compare the basic elements of the plot you know that this is a tale that is published every day but none of those books are written like NW.
The novel is stylized but not at all inaccessible. This is not two girls waiting for Godot. It’s very readable. There are the Big Life Events you expect for this type of an over the years, coming of age novel but they are not always presented in the way that we are used to. NW is more challenging than experimental. There is nothing in Smith’s technique that’s style over substance but there is a shuffling timeline and nontraditional storytelling that make good use of her excellent writing skills and do require the reader’s attention.I like the way Smith writes. In contradiction to the plot (And how many 1000’s of novels fall into the same category an NW? Should I even be quibbling about that? Am I only doing so because Smith has taught me to expect so much from her? ) the writing in NW is ambitious. Smith’s play with structure is intriguing and creative. Her ear for dialog and her dissection of London are brilliant. This is a big picture novel where ideas are in play and Zadie Smith manipulates it all.
P.S. What do you think of the eye chart cover? Boring I say.