Somewhere in Northwest London stands Caldwell housing estate, relic of 70s urban planning. Five identical blocks, deliberately named: Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Locke, and Russell. If you grew up there, the plan was to get out and get on, to something bigger, better.
Thirty years later, ex-Caldwell kids Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan have all made it out, with varying degrees of succes - whatever that means. Living only streets apart, they occupy separate worlds and navigate an atomized city where few wish to be their neighbor’s keeper. Then, one April afternoon, a stranger comes to Leah’s door seeking help, disturbing the peace, and forcing Leah out of her isolation....
From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, in this delicate, devastating novel of encounters, the main streets hide the back alleys, and taking the high road can sometimes lead to a dead end. Zadie Smith’s NW brilliantly depicts the modern urban zone - familiar to city dwellers everywhere - in a tragicomic novel as mercurial as the city itself.
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I believe this book is best listened to than read
Wish I had read this instead of listening to it
I would recommend the audiobook if you are not familiar with Britain and its dialects but I feel that it does not easily lend itself to audio as many chapters are brief (one line) and disjointed. At the beginning I had no idea what was going on. Being a visual person, I found it hard to create a picture initially because the text was so vague. I think it may have been easier if I was reading the book and could slow down and fully appreciate this writing technique. As the book progressed and I got a better picture of the characters and neighborhood I really appreciated Zadie Smith's talent in painting a vivid picture, although I have lived in London and I think this also helped a lot with my comprehension of the characters and setting.
The readers did an amazing job with sustaining their character dialects. Wow!
Zadie does not put in any superlative text so you really have to pay attention when listening as it is not easy to rewind and find what you missed - it's often very subtle but every line essential to the story.
I have read Zadie Smith's other books. I think her style is better suited to reading than listening. She has a great talent for getting beyond the superficial and revealing the reality of our thoughts and actions; what really motivates people and the influence of society, race and class on the choices we make.
I will probably listen to this over again or read the text so I can fully appreciate it.