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NW
 
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NW [Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]

by Zadie Smith (Author), Karen Bryson (Narrator), Don Gilet (Narrator)
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of NW, Zadie Smith's first novel since the best-selling On Beauty.

This is the story of a city. The north-west corner of a city. Here you'll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all. And many people in between. Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds. And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system.

Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwell's door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, forcing Leah out of her isolation....

Zadie Smith's brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan - as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end. Depicting the modern urban zone - familiar to town-dwellers everywhere - Zadie Smith's NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.

©2012 Zadie Smith; (P)2012 Penguin Books Limited

Product Details

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 11 hours
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Audible.com Release Date: September 6, 2012
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0098Y7ZK2
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
138 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing lives in North West London September 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover
The primary characters in Zadie Smith's new novel -- residents of North West London, from which the title derives -- are dissected and analyzed, or more often skewered, as Smith lays bare their hypocrisies, ambitions, facades, insecurities, prejudices, and fears. The four central characters stand on different rungs of the social ladder. The impact of class and social identity on relationships is the novel's central theme, why some people rise above their beginnings and others don't is the central question, but -- setting aside those social issues -- I enjoyed NW for the portrait it paints of troubled individuals coming to terms with their changing lives.

Leah Hanwell, 35, is married to an African named Michel. Leah has a love/hate relationship with Michel, and also with her friend Natalie (formerly Keisha), a barrister whose upward mobility (assisted by marriage to a prosperous money manager) has eluded her childhood friends. Just as J-Lo tried some years ago to convince her audience that she was still "Jenny from the block," Natalie is experiencing something of an identity crisis. Having shed the name Keisha, she still clings to her past, at least to Leah, whose attendance at Natalie's posh parties seems designed to contrast Natalie's humble beginnings to her current status. Although Leah has done well for herself, earning a degree and finding employment with a nonprofit, she remains tongue-tied in the company of educated professionals (Natalie invites Leah to tell stories and then gladly tells them for her) and is embarrassed by Michel's sincerity (but only when they are in public). Leah also seems envious of and disquieted by Natalie's children.

A couple of lesser characters haven't made the same progress as Natalie and Leah.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what to make of this September 24, 2012
By Madtea
Format:Hardcover
I'm a big Zadie Smith fan. I loved both White Teeth and On Beauty (although I hated The Autograph Man). I spent the first 30 pages of NW thinking, "What is this?" - I couldn't even figure out what was going on. But then I started to get it and think it was such a brilliant book. Now I've finished it and I'm back to wondering, "What was this?"

I had a few big problems. One is that Natalie, after a certain point, seemed more like a type than a human being. I never believed she would lose control so completely, or that she would let herself sink so low. (Or that someone so tightly controlled and conscious of appearances would do drugs so readily - as she apparently did throughout her life. Maybe that's just a prudish American reaction to drugs, or maybe I just live in a bubble.) Two: something in Natalie's narrative made me not really like either her or Leah (although I really enjoyed reading Leah's section at the time). In fact, I felt like the characters were mostly being skewered (as another reviewer said) by the author, which didn't make reading this book any more pleasant. Three: am I missing something in the ending? I couldn't believe that was it - it felt like I was in mid-page. And four: what did this all really amount to in the end? What did it all mean?

I'd be curious to hear from other people, particularly what they thought the ending meant in the literal sense, but also what point they thought Zadie Smith was ultimately trying to make.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Playful, Poetic, Passionate October 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Zadie Smith's fourth novel, NW, is her most ambitious in terms of structure and style. She's passionate, poetic, a bit cheeky, and, yes, at times challenging, too. But don't let that scare you off. This novel about the people who inhabit a London neighborhood, told in five sections, might be her best book yet.

The now mid-30s Londoners who all grew up in the same neighborhood, but whose paths have diverged, all have secrets, all have seen successes and failures (some more than others), and all have a complicated relationship with their roots. Essentially, the novel asks us to consider how different factors (race?) and different formative events turn us into the people we eventually become.

The main focus is on Leah Hanwell and Natalie (Keisha) Blake, lifelong friends. Each woman gets her own section of the novel. We start with Leah, whose story is told in short mini-chapters. Leah is in a failing relationship, based largely on physical attraction, with a "beautiful" man named Michel. And she's trying to figure out what it means to be happy -- is the definition of contentment her friend Natalie's marriage to a nice, successful man named Frank, and their two children? Or is it Leah's own avowed-childless state?

The next section, the most straightforward in the novel, tells the story of guy named Felix -- a recovering drug addict who is trying to put his life back together. But is the pull of the past too strong? We only find out at the end of the novel how Felix's story relates to the stories of the other three characters. And it's more than a little bit of a gut-punch.

My favorite part of the novel is Natalie's section, the third.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What price success? September 6, 2012
Format:Hardcover
NW is both a quadrant of London and a state of mind in Zadie Smith's ambitious novel. It is composed of a dense cluster of communities where a diverse group of people struggle to get and keep a toehold in London. The two main characters in the book are Leah and Natalie, friends since childhood in Caldwell, a NW enclave. Both are determined to be people different from their parents and the typical NW stereotype.

The first section of the book is presented from the the perspective of Leah, who is disquieted that her life lacks the focus or seriousness of Natalie's life, yet is embarrassed that her husband so much wants to emulate that life. Natalie is a barrister with two children and a husband, Frank, who is an attractive, sophisticated currency trader. Leah works for a nonprofit and her husband, Michel, is a hairdresser determined to better himself financially and socially. Leah and Michel are invited to all of Natalie's parties, but the friendship has become brittle, and the reader is uncertain whether any two people in this foursome still like each other. There is considerable tension all around, but we have no back-story or insight to dissect the clues we are given. The remainder of the book provides the context, but there is no easy solution to the disquiet in the lives of these two women. The book provides the reader with story arcs and details about their lives, but has the honesty and confidence to leave us not with a tidy solution but instead with all the jagged edges of real life.

For all the diversity of the characters described in the book, characters fall into two main categories: those who can afford to be sloppy, like Leah and Frank, and those who can't, like Natalie and Michel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars In Praise of Tough Reads
In Praise of Tough Reads

I read Zadie Smith's "NW" immediately after finishing Jonas Jonasson's "The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared. Read more
Published 19 days ago by David G. Hallman
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring!
This novel was boring. I bought months ago and never finished
Published 1 month ago by Denise Serrano
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Not as good as White Teeth, but better than On Beauty
Published 1 month ago by Jeanine R. Nault
1.0 out of 5 stars Like many people
Like many people, I enjoy Zadie Smith's earlier work, but I found this horrible. I couldn't make it past 40 pages. Saw my barrista with it and asked what she thought. Read more
Published 2 months ago by discerning customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Bah humbug!
I just didn't "get it." Very disjointed and hard to follow, although, from time to time there were stretches of brilliant writing. Story was just too hard. Read more
Published 2 months ago by lois lane
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Didn't love the characters, but the writing is great.
Published 2 months ago by Ali Kittle
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Whoaaaa, Zadie Smith does it again. In a word - Brilliant.
Published 2 months ago by Jewels Marcus
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Smith at her best - characters you must care about even when they drive you crazy, and a place that comes alive through relationships between people. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book about multi racial and ethnic life in ...
A remarkable book about multi racial and ethnic life in an area of London that had formerly been all white. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bethany Ladimer
1.0 out of 5 stars it was unanimously decided we now have a new gold standard for...
I have been in book group for over fifteen years. After choosing this book, it was unanimously decided we now have a new gold standard for TERRIBLE. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rebecca
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