NW by Zadie Smith
The story follows four different individuals who have grown up in North West London in the Caldwell estate. Each of the characters struggles to get ahead in their life; be it due to social repression, acceptance or addiction. The parts dedicated to each character are not equal and the reader may feel denied from getting to know certain characters further. This is a clever technique that Smith uses highlighting how uncaring society can be.
Smith is a very talented writer, writing with humor and conviction about everyday topics as well as the taboo topics of modern London. The writing is versatile and non-confirmative. There is an interesting mix of description and direct speech and Smith breathes life into each of her characters. It is rewarding to be able to get to know the characters on such an intimate level, having a window into their thoughts. What I particularly love about Zadie Smith’s writing is the way in which she is able to write about her characters in a way that the reader is non-judging. There is the perfect balance of sympathy yet frustration for each of them that it keeps you gripped wanting to learn of their progress.
Smith ought to be commended for her sharp observations. She shows her real knowledge of the inner flows of society and is not afraid to focus on the issues surrounding ethnic minorities and the pursuit to rise above their own class. There are some delicate themes that pop up in NW. One of which is the role of the wife as a mother. The idea that society is unable to accept a marriage as a union between two, without children is played with. Leah feels this pressure from society to perform her duty as a woman to bear children. Another is the struggle that individuals face when they try to live a clean life and want to move on from the past. Society will constantly remind them of their past downfall.
Absolutely fascinating piece by Zadie Smith and an excellent addition to modern literature. Definitely recommend to all those brought up or living in London. It would make an excellent piece for literature students focused on topics of culture and race in ethnically diverse cities.