Zadie Smith’s fourth novel centres around four Londoners who grew up on the same NW council estate.
It follows them as they make their way in the world, influenced by characters they encounter along the way. It’s by no means an easy read. In particular, the first part of the story is written as a stream of consciousness, interspersed with the odd poem even. The reader has to work to keep up with who is talking and what is happening. To find that the majority of the novel is written in a more conventional narrative comes as a relief.
Despite the demanding start, it’s hard not to be impressed by Smith’s ability to paint a vivid picture and her razor-sharp observations that succeed in cutting through pretensions to get the heart of people and situations. NW rewards those who make it through with characters and plot that intrigue. It’s just a shame that the ending fails to tie up the various strands in a satisfying conclusion.