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Review: NW

November 16, 2012

When NW showed up in my mailbox, a lot of people told me they were excited about it because they love Zadie Smith’s work, so I was eager to give her latest book a try.  NW features four young people living in the northwest section of London.  They all grew up in the same council estate and are trying to figure out how to live their lives as adults in London.

Since the story is told in snippets of stories and stream of consciousness thoughts inside the characters heads, I had trouble discerning any plot.  I finally figured out that this is a non-traditional novel that is more about the pulse of the city than anything else.  To be honest, I struggled with it – I had trouble following what was going on and as soon as I did, it seemed like things went in a different direction.   This book wasn’t really for me but I’ve read several reviews that have declared it brilliant – I do think it’s for the more sophisticated reader and I suspect I didn’t understand many of the nuances of the story.

I listened to the audio version of NW and, even though I wasn’t crazy about it, I thought the narration was outstanding.  It’s narrated by Don Gilet and Karen Bryson and I thought they both did a fantastic job – I wouldn’t hesitate to listen to either of them again.  The audio is on 9 CDs and lasts approximately 11 hours.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
30 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2012 4:25 am

    I’m reading this at the moment and I’m enjoying it so far, but I definitely think I’d struggle with the non-traditional narrative style on audio.

  2. November 16, 2012 5:56 am

    I agree with Ana – I think audio can make such novels more difficult!

  3. November 16, 2012 7:07 am

    I like Zadie Smith’s writing and look forward to giving this one a go. I think knowing the narrative is non-traditional in advance is helpful. Also, like everyone else is saying, I think these sorts of narratives are difficult over audio.

  4. November 16, 2012 7:10 am

    Sorry this one wasn’t better for you. I plan to try it sometime.

  5. November 16, 2012 8:11 am

    Sometimes if it’s a literary novel, I need to read the words rather than listen to them.

  6. November 16, 2012 8:41 am

    I’m looking forward to this one, since I love Smith’s writing. I have to agree with everyone – this type of book is better to read than listen to – its just the way she writes.

  7. Caite permalink
    November 16, 2012 8:59 am

    Not sure this is my cuppa tea either…

  8. November 16, 2012 9:18 am

    Not sure if this would be for me either, though glad the narration was well done.

  9. kaye permalink
    November 16, 2012 9:21 am

    Don’t think this one would interest me. Stream of conciousness writing drives me crazy. No plot is also a turn-off.

  10. November 16, 2012 10:21 am

    I gave up on it after a couple of hours. It was too disjointed for me. I couldn’t find a plot and didn’t care for the characters so it went in the DNF pile. I’m guessing I’m not the target audience for this book.

  11. November 16, 2012 11:50 am

    I’ve never read anything by Smith, but this doesn’t sound like one I’d enjoy.

  12. talesofwhimsy permalink
    November 16, 2012 12:31 pm

    Great review.

  13. November 16, 2012 2:29 pm

    I don’t think I’d try this one on audio. But I haven’t tried anymore of her books since I couldn’t get through her book, White Teeth.

  14. boardinginmyforties permalink
    November 16, 2012 3:04 pm

    I never do well with stream of consciousness. My brain is just too analytical and overly orderly and books like this drive me mad. I’ve heard many good reviews of this one though so apparently most people are not like me!

  15. November 16, 2012 4:04 pm

    Shame you didn’t enjoy this one but I don’t think it says anything about your sophisticatedness of your reading. Some books just don’t work for everyone.

  16. November 16, 2012 5:33 pm

    I have read some of her other books and have felt as though I should love them when I really didnt!

  17. November 16, 2012 7:20 pm

    OK I guess I’m getting the feeling that this may not be suited for audio (and as you know I have the audio). I haven’t loaded it on the iPod yet…still trying to figure out how I am going to read this one.

  18. Beth F permalink
    November 16, 2012 7:39 pm

    I have to agree that it doesn’t sound like a good one for audio. I’m not quite sure this is for me in any case.

  19. November 16, 2012 8:40 pm

    I wonder if I’d enjoy this one. I think I’d have to be in the mood for it, it does sound interesting though.

  20. November 16, 2012 8:45 pm

    I have an audio review copy, too, but keep avoiding it. I was wondering whether this type of novel is really suited to the format… and you’ve just answered my question. This might work as a read/listen combo though. Think I’ll add my name to the library hold list and try it that way.

  21. November 16, 2012 9:02 pm

    It does sound like a tricky audiobook. I’m torn, but I may give it a try sometime. Thanks for giving us the lowdown on NW.

  22. November 16, 2012 9:10 pm

    I don’t think it is you … I’ve read elsewhere that this a bit of a tricky read.

  23. November 16, 2012 9:41 pm

    I’m going to sound like as ass on this one, but I always wonder, if the back of my mind, how many people raving about books like this do it to sound cool. I know it’s not the case, but I always lump those people in with those who rave about the classics all the time.

  24. November 17, 2012 1:42 am

    Plotless books like that, which seek to give many glimpses – a montage of life stories, are very difficult for me to get into. On rare occasions I will be in the mood for such things, but it’s a matter of the stars aligning – my perfect mood finding just the right book.

  25. Caitie F permalink
    November 17, 2012 9:38 am

    I read this book a couple months ago and did not enjoy it at all/ I thought the structure was odd and confusing, the characters were flat, and the plot was not even interesting. It was actually one of my least favorite books of the year. That said, I do want to try out some of her previous books because I know a lot of people who love her didn’t enjoy this book.

  26. November 17, 2012 11:02 am

    I’ve been hit and miss with Zadie Smith – loved On Beauty, gave up on White Teeth. I’ll probably give this one a try at some point.

  27. November 17, 2012 3:00 pm

    Wouldn’t work for me at all, because honestly I am not a sophisticated reader. There are times when I want a deep book but I don’t always read to be analytical.

  28. November 17, 2012 8:54 pm

    I want to read one of her books but this one doesn’t look like one I’d be interested in.

  29. November 18, 2012 3:46 pm

    Too bad you didn’t like it more. Smith is one of those authors I want to read but am a bit intimidated of. These types of books work best for me on paper. I’ve been trying to listen to Dickens recently and it’s just tough going! Much easier understood when read.

  30. November 20, 2012 3:22 pm

    My husband bought me White Teeth ages ago, but I still have started it yet. Like Trish says, I think I’m intimidated.

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