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NW (Anglais) Broché – 6 juin 2013

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Descriptions du produit



The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on school gates and lampposts. In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside. She keeps to the shade. Redheaded. On the radio: I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. A good line—write it out on the back of a magazine. In a hammock, in the garden of a basement flat. Fenced in, on all sides.

Four gardens along, in the estate, a grim girl on the third floor screams Anglo-Saxon at nobody. Juliet balcony, projecting for miles. It ain’t like that. Nah it ain’t like that. Don’t you start. Fag in hand. Fleshy, lobster-red.

I am the sole

I am the sole author

Pencil leaves no mark on magazine pages. Somewhere she has read that the gloss gives you cancer. Everyone knows it shouldn’t be this hot. Shriveled blossom and bitter little apples. Birds singing the wrong tunes in the wrong trees too early in the year. Don’t you bloody start! Look up: the girl’s burned paunch rests on the railing. Here’s what Michel likes to say: not everyone can be invited to the party. Not this century. Cruel opinion—she doesn’t share it. In marriage not everything is shared. Yellow sun high in the sky. Blue cross on a white stick, clear, definitive. What to do? Michel is at work. He is still at work.

I am the

the sole

Ash drifts into the garden below, then comes the butt, then the box. Louder than the birds and the trains and the traffic. Sole sign of sanity: a tiny device tucked in her ear. I told im stop takin liberties. Where’s my cheque? And she’s in my face chattin breeze. Fuckin liberty.

I am the sole. The sole. The sole

She unfurls her fist, lets the pencil roll. Takes her liberty. Nothing else to listen to but this bloody girl. At least with eyes closed there is something else to see. Viscous black specks. Darting water boatmen, zig-zagging. Zig. Zag. Red river? Molten lake in hell? The hammock tips. The papers flop to the ground. World events and property and film and music lie in the grass. Also sport and the short descriptions of the dead.


Doorbell! She stumbles through the grass barefoot, sun-huddled, drowsy. The back door leads to a poky kitchen, tiled brightly in the taste of a previous tenant. The bell is not being rung. It is being held down.

In the textured glass, a body, blurred. Wrong collection of pixels to be Michel. Between her body and the door, the hallway floorboards, golden in reflected sun. This hallway can only lead to good things. Yet a woman is screaming PLEASE and crying. A woman thumps the front door with her fist. Pulling the lock aside, she finds it stops halfway, the chain pulls tight, and a little hand f lies through the gap.

– PLEASE—oh my God help me—please Miss, I live here—I live just here, please God—check, please—

Dirty nails. Waving a gas bill? Phone bill? Pushed through the opening, past the chain, so close she must draw back to focus on what she is being shown. 37 Ridley Avenue—a street on the corner of her own. This is all she reads. She has a quick vision of Michel as he would be if he were here, examining the envelope’s plastic window, checking on credentials. Michel is at work. She releases the chain.

The stranger’s knees go, she falls forward, crumpling. Girl or woman? They’re the same age: thirties, mid-way, or thereabouts. Tears shake the stranger’s little body. She pulls at her clothes and wails. Woman begging the public for witnesses. Woman in a warzone standing in the rubble of her home.

– You’re hurt?

Her hands are in her hair. Her head collides with the doorframe.

– Nah, not me, my mum—I need some help. I’ve been to every fuckin door—please. Shar—my name is Shar. I’m local. I live here. Check!

– Come in. Please. I’m Leah.

Leah is as faithful in her allegiance to this two-mile square of the city as other people are to their families, or their countries. She knows the way people speak around here, that fuckin, around here, is only a rhythm in a sentence. She arranges her face to signify compassion. Shar closes her eyes, nods. She makes quick movements with her mouth, inaudible, speaking to herself. To Leah she says

– You’re so good.

Shar’s diaphragm rises and falls, slower now. The shuddering tears wind down.

– Thank you, yeah? You’re so good.

Shar’s small hands grip the hands that support her. Shar is tiny. Her skin looks papery and dry, with patches of psoriasis on the forehead and on the jaw. The face is familiar. Leah has seen this face many times in these streets. A peculiarity of London villages: faces without names. The eyes are memorable, around the deep brown clear white is visible, above and below. An air of avidity, of consuming what she sees. Long lashes. Babies look like this. Leah smiles. The smile offered back is blank, without recognition. Sweetly crooked. Leah is only the good stranger who opened the door and did not close it again. Shar repeats: you are so good, you are so good— until the thread of pleasure that runs through that phrase (of course for Leah there is a little pleasure) is broken. Leah shakes her head. No, no, no, no.

Leah directs Shar to the kitchen. Big hands on the girl’s narrow shoulders. She watches Shar’s buttocks rise up and against her rolled-down jogging pants, the little downy dip in her back, pronounced, sweaty in the heat. The tiny waist opening out into curves. Leah is hipless, gangly like a boy. Perhaps Shar needs money. Her clothes are not clean. In the back of her right knee there is a wide tear in the nasty fabric. Dirty heels rise up out of disintegrating flip-f lops. She smells.

– Heart attack! I was asking them is she dyin? Is she dyin? Is she dyin? She goes in the ambulance—don’t get no answer do I! I got three kids that is home alone innit—I have to get hospital—what they talking about car for? I ain’t got no car! I’m saying help me—no one did a fuckin thing to help me.

Leah grips Shar’s wrist, sets her down in a chair at the kitchen table and passes over a roll of tissue. She puts her hands once more on Shar’s shoulders. Their foreheads are inches from each other.

– I understand, it’s OK. Which hospital?

– It’s like . . . I ain’t written it . . . In Middlesex or—Far, though. Don’t know eggzak’ly.

Leah squeezes Shar’s hands.

– Look, I don’t drive—but—

Checks her watch. Ten to five.

– If you wait, maybe twenty minutes? If I call him now, he can—or maybe a taxi . . .

Shar eases her hands from Leah’s. She presses her knuckles into her eyes, breathing out fully: the panic is over.

– Need to be there . . . no numbers—nothing—no money . . .

Shar tears some skin from her right thumb with her teeth. A spot of blood rises and contains itself. Leah takes Shar again by the wrist. Draws her fingers from her mouth.

– Maybe The Middlesex? Name of the hospital, not the place. Down Acton way, isn’t it?

The girl’s face is dreamy, slow. Touched, the Irish say. Possible that she’s touched.

– Yeah . . . could be . . . yeah, no, yeah that’s it. The Middlesex. That’s it.

Leah straightens up, takes a phone from her back pocket and dials.


Leah nods and Shar continues, making no concession for the phone call.


Leah keeps her phone to her ear, smiles and nods, gives her address. She mimes a cup of tea. But Shar is looking at the apple blossom. She wipes tears from her face with the fabric of her grubby t-shirt. Her belly-button is a tight knot f lush with her stomach, a button sewn in a divan. Leah recites her own phone number.

– Done.

She turns to the sideboard, picks up the kettle with her free hand, fumbling it because she expected it to be empty. A little water spills. She replaces the kettle on its stand, and remains where she is, her back to her guest. There is no natural place to sit or stand. In front of her, on the long windowsill that stretches the room, some of the things of her life—photos, knick-knacks, some of Dad’s ashes, vases, plants, herbs. In the window’s reflection Shar is bringing her little feet up to the seat of her chair, holding her ankles. The emergency was less awkward, more natural than this. This is not the country for making a stranger tea. They smile at each other in the glass. There is goodwill. There is nothing to say.

– I’ll get cups.

Leah is naming all her actions. She opens the cupboard. It is full of cups; cups on cups on cups.

– Nice place.

Leah turns too quickly, makes irrelevant motions with her hands.

– Not ours—we rent—ours is just this—there’s two flats upstairs. Shared garden. It’s council, so . . .

Leah pours out the tea as Shar looks around. Bottom lip out, head nodding gently. Appreciative, like an estate agent. Now she comes to Leah. What’s to see? Wrinkled checked flannel shirt, raggedy jean shorts, freckled legs, bare feet—someone absurd, maybe, a slacker, a lady of leisure. Leah crosses her arms across her abdomen.

– Nice for council. Lot of bedrooms and that?

The lip stays low. It slurs her speech a little. Something is wrong with Shar’s face, Leah notices, and is embarrassed by noticing, and looks away.

– Two. The second’s a box. We sort of use it as . . .

Shar meanwhile burrows for something else entirely; she’s slower than Leah, but she’s there now, they’re in the same place. She points her finger in Leah’s face.

– Wait—you went Brayton?

She bounces on her chair. Elated. But this must be wrong.

– I swear when you was on the phone I was thinking: I know you. You went Brayton!

Leah perches her backside on the counter and gives her dates. Shar is impatient with chronology. She wants to know if Leah remembers when the science wing flooded, the time Jake Fowler had his head placed in a vise. In relation to these coordinates, like moon landings and the deaths of presidents, they position their own times.

– Two years below you, innit. What’s your name again?

Leah struggles with the stiff lid of a biscuit tin.

– Leah. Hanwell.

– Leah. You went Brayton. Still see anyone?

Leah lists her names, with their potted biographies. Shar beats a rhythm on the table-top with her fingers.

– Have you been married long?

– Too long.

– Do you want me to call someone? Your husband?

– Nah . . . nah . . . he’s over there. Ain’t seen him in two years. Abusive. Violent. Had issues. Had a lot of problems, in his head and that. Broke my arm, broke my collarbone, broke my knee, broke my fuckin face. Tell you the truth—

The next is said in a light aside, with a little hiccupping laugh, and is incomprehensible.

– Used to rape me and everything . . . it was crazy. Oh well.

Shar slides off her chair and walks toward the back door. Looks out on the garden, the parched yellow lawn.

– I’m so sorry.

– Ain’t your fault! Is what it is.

The feeling of feeling absurd. Leah puts her hands in her pockets. The kettle clicks.

– Truthfully, Layer, I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. It’s been hard. But. Got away, you know? I’m alive. Three kids! Youngest is seven. So, good came, you get me?

Leah nods at the kettle.

– Got kids?

– No. A dog, Olive. She’s at my mate Nat’s house right now. Natalie Blake? Actually in school she was Keisha. Natalie De Angelis now. In my year. Used to have a big afro puff like—

Leah mimes an atomic mushroom behind her own head. Shar frowns.

– Yeah. Up herself. Coconut. Thought she was all that.

A look of blank contempt passes over Shar’s face. Leah talks into it.

– She’s got kids. Lives just over there, in the posh bit, on the park. She’s a lawyer now. Barrister. What’s the difference? Maybe there isn’t one. They’ve two kids. The kids love Olive, the dog’s called Olive.

She is just saying sentences, one after the other, they don’t stop.

– I’m pregnant, actually.

Shar leans against the glass of the door. Closes one eye, focusing on Leah’s stomach.

– Oh it’s early. Very. Actually I found out this morning.

Actually actually actually. Shar takes the revelation in her stride.

– Boy?

– No, I mean—I haven’t got that far.

Leah blushes not having intended to speak of this delicate, unfinished thing.

– Does your mans know?

– I took the test this morning. Then you came.

– Pray for a girl. Boys are hell.

Shar has a dark look. She grins satanically. Around each tooth the gum is black. She walks back to Leah and presses her hands flat against Leah’s stomach.

– Let me feel. I can tell things. Don’t matter how early. Come here. Not gonna hurt you. It’s like a gift. My mum was the same way. Come here.

She reaches for Leah and pulls her forward. Leah lets her. Shar places her hands back where they were.

– Gonna be a girl, definite. Scorpio, too, proper trouble. A runner.

Leah laughs. She feels a heat rising between the girl’s sweaty hands and her own clammy stomach.

– Like an athlete?

– Nah . . . the kind who runs away. You’ll need one eye on her, all the time.

Shar’s hands drop, her face glazes over once more with boredom. She starts talking of things. All things are equal. Leah or tea or rape or bedroom or heart attack or school or who had a baby.

– That school. . . . it was rubbish but them people who went there. . . . quite a few people did all right, didn’t they? Like, Calvin—remember Calvin?

Leah pours out the tea, nodding fiercely. She does not remember Calvin.

– He’s got a gym on the Finchley Road.

Leah spins her spoon in her tea, a drink she never takes, especially in this weather. She has pressed the bag too hard. The leaves break their borders and swarm.

– Not running it—owns it. I go past there sometimes. Never thought little Calvin would get his shit together—he was always with Jermaine and Louie and Michael. Them lot was trouble . . . I don’t see none of them. Don’t need the drama. Still see Nathan Bogle. Used to see Tommy and James Haven but I aint seen them recent. Not for time.

Shar keeps talking. The kitchen slants and Leah steadies herself with a hand to the sideboard.

– Sorry, what?

Shar frowns, she speaks round the lit fag in her mouth.

– I said, can I have that tea?

Together they look like old friends on a winter’s night, holding their mugs with both hands. The door is open, every window is open. No air moves. Leah takes her shirt in hand and shakes it free of her skin. A vent opens, air scoots through. The sweat pooled beneath each breast leaves its shameful trace on the cotton.

– I used to know . . . I mean . . .

Leah presses on with this phony hesitation and looks deep into her mug, but Shar isn’t interested, she’s knocking on the glass of the door, speaking over her.

– Yeah you looked different in school, definitely. You’re better now innit. You was all ginger and bony. All long.

Leah is still all of these things. The change must be in other people, or in the times themselves.

– Done well, though. How come you aint at work? What d’you do again?

Shar is already nodding as Leah begins to speak.

– Phoned in sick. I wasn’t feeling good. It’s sort of general admin, basically. For a good cause. We hand out money. From the lottery, to charities, nonprofits—small local organizations in the community that need . . .

They are not listening to their own conversation. The girl from the estate is still out on her balcony, screaming. Shar shakes her head and whistles. She gives Leah a look of neighborly sympathy.

– Silly fat bitch.

Leah traces a knight’s move from the girl with her finger. Two floors up, one window across.

– I was born just there.

From there to here, a journey longer than it looks. For a second, this local detail holds Shar’s interest. Then she looks away, ashing her cigarette on the kitchen floor, though the door is open and the grass only a foot away. She is slow, maybe, and possibly clumsy; or she is traumatized, or distracted.

– Done well. Living right. Probably got a lot of friends, out on a Friday, clubbing, all that.

– Not really.

Shar blows a short burst of smoke out of her mouth, and makes a rueful sort of sound, nodding her head over and over.

– Proper snobby, this street. You the only one let me in. Rest of them wouldn’t piss on you if you was on fire.

– I’ve got to go upstairs. Get some money for this cab.

Leah has money in her pocket. Upstairs she walks into the nearest room, the toilet, closes the door, sits on the floor and cries. With her foot she reaches over and knocks the toilet paper off its perch. She is rolling it toward her when the doorbell goes.


Leah stands, tries to wash away the redness in the tiny sink. She finds Shar in the hallway, in front of a shelf filled with books from college, drawing her finger along the spines.

– You read all these?

– No, not really. No time nowadays.

Leah takes the key from where it sits on the middle shelf and opens the front door. Nothing makes sense. The driver who stands by the gate makes a gesture she doesn’t understand, points to the other end of the street and starts walking. Shar follows. Leah follows. Leah is growing into a new meekness.

– How much do you need?

There is a shade of pity in Shar’s face.

– Twenty? Thirty . . . is safe.

She smokes without hands, squeezing the vapor out of a corner of her mouth.

The manic froth of cherry blossom. Through a corridor of pink, Michel appears, walking up the street, on the other side. Too hot— his face is soaked. The little towel he keeps for days like this pokes from his bag. Leah raises a finger up in the air, a request for him to stay where he is. She points to Shar, though Shar is hidden by the car. Michel is short-sighted; he squints in their direction, stops, smiles tensely, takes his jacket off, throws it over his arm. Leah can see him plucking at his t-shirt, trying to shed the the remnants of his day: many tiny hairs, clippings from strangers, some blonde, some brown.

– Who that?

– Michel, my husband.

– Girl’s name?

– French.

– Nice looking, innit—nice looking babies!

Shar winks: a grotesque compression of one side of her face. Shar drops her cigarette and gets in the car, leaving the door open. The money remains in Leah’s hand.

– He local? Seen him about.

– He works in the hairdressers, by the station? From Marseilles—he’s French. Been here forever.

– African, though.

– Originally. Look—do you want me to come with you?

Shar says nothing for a moment. Then she steps out of the car and reaches up to Leah’s face with both hands.

– You’re a really good person. I was meant to come to your door. Seriously! You’re a spiritual person. There’s something spiritual inside you.

Leah grips Shar’s little hand tight and submits to a kiss. Shar’s mouth is slightly open on Leah’s cheek for thank and now closes with you. In reply, Leah says something she has never said in her life: God bless you. They pull apart—Shar backs away awkwardly, and turns toward the car, almost gone. Leah presses the money into Shar’s hand with defiance. But already the grandeur of experience threatens to f latten into the conventional, into anecdote: only thirty pounds, only an ill mother, neither a murder, nor a rape. Nothing survives its telling.

– Mental weather.

Shar uses her scarf to blot the sweat on her face, and will not look at Leah.

– Come by tomorrow. Pay you back. Swear to God, yeah? Thanks, seriously. You saved me today.

Leah shrugs.

– Nah don’t be like that, I swear—I’ll be there, serious.

– I just hope she’s OK. Your mum.

– Tomorrow, yeah? Thank you!

The door closes. The car pulls off.

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
One of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year
A Best Book of the Year for the Wall Street Journal, GQ, and The New Yorker's James Wood


“A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model… Like Zadie Smith’s much-acclaimed predecessor White Teeth (2000), NW is an urban epic.” --Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

“[NW] is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real.”
--Anne Enright, The New York Times Book Review

"Endlessly fascinating... remarkable. ...The impression of Smith's casual brilliance is what constantly surprises, the way she tosses off insights about parenting and work that you've felt in some nebulous way but never been able to articulate."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"A marvelously accomplished work, perhaps her most polished yet."
—Laura Miller, Salon

"A triumph... As Smith threads together her characters' inner and outer worlds, every sentence sings."
—The Guardian

"Smith's fiction has never been this deadly, direct, or economical... Where gifts are concerned, Smith is generous with hers; she writes, one feels, with our pleasure in mind... NW is Zadie Smith’s riskiest, meanest, most political and deeply felt book--but it all feels so effortless. She dazzles."
—Parul Sehgal, Bookforum

"NW offers a nuanced, disturbing exploration of the boundaries, some porous, some impenetrable, between people living cheek by jowl in urban centers where the widening gap between haves and have-nots has created chasms into which we're all in danger of falling."

"A powerful portrait of class and identity in multicultural London. "
—Entertainment Weekly

"One of the most interesting portrayals of 30- something womanhood that I've come across in a long time. For other readers, Smith's brilliant eye and idiosyncratic ear should be ample enticement."
—Bloomberg News

"A master class in freestyle fiction writing. Smith mashes up voices and vignettes, poetry and instant messaging, bedroom preferences and murder, and keeps it all from collapsing into incoherent mush with deft, dry wit. Smith defines characters worth reading."

"Smith's masterful ability to suspend all these bits and parts in the amber which is London refracts light, history, and the humane beauty of seeing everything at once."
—Publishers Weekly

"In NW, Smith offers a robust novel bursting with life: a timely exploration of money, morals, class and authenticity that asks if we are ever truly the sole authors of our own fate."
—BookPage --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 352 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin (6 juin 2013)
  • Collection : HH FIC PB
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0141036591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141036595
  • Dimensions du produit: 12,9 x 2,1 x 19,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 2.8 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 18.049 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Carolyn Jordan le 4 juin 2013
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Je n'ai aimé ni le style d'écriture cherchant trop le prix littéraire un peu comme les 'choisis du Turner prize'. La belle prose — la prose tout court (à mon avis) est inexistante. Bref, j'ai fini par renoncé, presque à la moitié du livre, après un effort considérable d'y trouver quelque mérite!
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Par Delmas Clara le 21 août 2013
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I love Zadie Smith ever since I read White Teeth... Her dazzling intelligence, her witty style, her deep understanding of everything human, she is an impressive writer. Still, book after book I am not as seduced as I had been with the initial shock that White Teeth was... This one is sadder and gloomier, but tacles very interesting problematics through 4 very different characters. It is sophisticated and deep. If you love Zadie Smith, you'll love it, if you don't, begin with White Teeth!
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Par Dom le 28 septembre 2014
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Un peu déconcertant (mon premier Zadie Smith ) au début par son écriture supposée être le reflet des personnages ; les chapitres suivants sont plus réussis et même assez passionnants.
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2 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Christian Nugue le 7 janvier 2013
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Working for Amazon is something of a challenge for a non native speaker like me. I have to squeeze out of my little brain utterances that make sense and sound smart. When reading an e book from Amazon, I start slowing down for fear of having to review what I have just read. Let go the easy way.l love Sadie Smith and I love her book. Sadie is a photographer of everyday life. Quite an achievement when you wield a pen instead of a camera.
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145 internautes sur 155 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Changing lives in North West London 4 septembre 2012
Par TChris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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. Nathan Bogle, the recipient of Leah's childhood crush, is mired in a slang-filled, weed-smoking life, a life on the streets that is dedicated solely to survival. His role in the novel is to teach Natalie that she knows nothing about his social class despite attending the same school when they were both ten. Nathan knows Natalie has "made it" because she can squander her tears on something as insignificant as a distressed marriage; she has left more fundamental worries behind. Yet for all her success and despite Nathan's complaint that she is needlessly self-pitying, Natalie feels trapped by her circumstances. Her desperate sadness motivates foolish behavior.

Positioned somewhere between Nathan and Leah on the ladder of success is Felix Cooper, whose Jamaican father lives in the West End. Felix craves the freedom of a better life in the North West with Grace (half Jamaican, half Nigerian), who wants to free him of his "negative energy." While interesting and well written, Felix's story seems out of place, having only a tangential connection to the rest of the novel.

Readers who cannot abide unconventional writing might dislike NW. Each of the novel's sections is written in a different style. Dialog is often (but not always) set apart in condensed paragraphs; in the first section, quotation marks are nonexistent. Sentences, like the thoughts they reflect, are sometimes incomplete or scattered. One passage is written as free-form poetry; another as an online chat. The largest chunk of the novel is written as a series of vignettes, scenes that deftly sketch out Leah's and Natalie's lives from their childhood to the present. One section follows Natalie as she takes a long walk through the North West; it is divided into subsections ("Hampstead to Archway") like a guide to a walking tour. I enjoyed the different styles -- they aren't particularly daring and they don't make the novel inaccessible -- but readers who favor a straightforward narrative might be put off by the jarring changes in format.

As we have come to expect from Zadie Smith, much of the story is wryly amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny. Her description of "marriage as the art of invidious comparison" is one of many sly observations I admired. Smith's prose is as graceful and unpredictable as a tumbleweed. The pace is relaxed, not slow but unhurried. In a good way, the story is slightly meandering. Smith takes her time, developing the characters and their surroundings bit by bit until it all becomes real.

I suspect that readers who dislike Jonathan Franzen's most recent novels will dislike NW for the same reasons: there isn't much of a plot and the characters aren't always likable (although Smith's characters aren't as determinedly self-centered as Franzen's). Both writers strive to say something about society at large by focusing on smaller segments, families and friends who are defined by geography and class. Readers who believe that good writing often illuminates the world as it exists, not as we want it to be, that it is just as important to understand flaws as perfection, will find much to admire in Smith's surgical exploration of characters struggling to come to grips with their changing lives. To my mind, NW is a fine, fun, five star novel.
54 internautes sur 61 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Not sure what to make of this 25 septembre 2012
Par Madtea - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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.
20 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Playful, Poetic, Passionate 2 octobre 2012
Par Gregory Zimmerman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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. It's the longest in the novel, and it's told in 185 line- to paragraph- to page-length snippets, each with its own title (the title, which, is often key to understanding what Smith is talking about). What makes these so successful is that Smith trusts you as an observant reader, often dropping you in mid-scene or mid-conversation. It's like she assumes you will know what she's talking about -- whether a popular movie or Kurt Cobain or a reference to a previous part of the novel itself -- and therefore the effect is that you actually feel engaged in Natalie's story. Besides that, Natalie's story -- growing up, going to law school, marrying Frank, harboring a secret -- is really engrossing.

The final two (very short) sections tie a bow on the novel, as we see Leah's problems with her boyfriend come to a head, and Natalie, despite her own problems, has to come help her. We also see Natalie taking a quasi-tour of the neighborhood with the fourth principle of the novel, a fella named Nathan, who had been the object of a schoolgirl crush by Leah. But now, drug-addicted and possibly homeless (we actually first see Nathan briefly in the first section, when Leah runs into him at a train station), Nathan stands as cautionary tale and is the balance or contrast to the relatively successful Leah and Natalie.

Overall, this is a great novel. I loved it! My only complaint about the novel is that, even though it's 400 pages, it actually feels a bit slight. Indeed, it's probably, on a word-count basis, the shortest 400-page novel you'll ever read. That's because the line-by-line spacing is rather loose and the Natalie section often breaks several times on the page.

I would've gladly kept reading more about these fascinating characters. There are several unanswered questions at the end. But still, the process of getting there is a really rewarding reading experience. I devoured this novel in about four days. It's worth nothing that, often, you have to go back and re-read some of the simple clues Smith drops in earlier sections to understand a reference in a latter. But that's not hard, and it gives you those awesome "I'm-in-on-the-inside-joke. I get it!" moments when you understand. (Example: Why does Natalie change her name from Keisha?)

Zadie Smith is one of my all-time favorite writers, and this novel -- seven long years after her last -- does nothing to diminish that. Four stars. Highly recommended for the literary fiction fiend.
23 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
What price success? 6 septembre 2012
Par las cosas - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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. Those in the first category grow up in a cocoon of relative privilege, believing that everything will be okay in life. They can afford to be more generous, exploratory and relaxed. Those in the other group, which besides Natalie and Michel includes almost everyone in NW London, are one small step from disaster at all times. Many take that wrong step and end in jail, pregnant, dead. The small group that doesn't meet this end is constantly expecting that it will happen to them. This makes them cautious, selfish, afraid. And even when these characters do absolutely everything to protect themselves, disaster often finds them anyway.

The signs of friction in the first section are amplified, if not fully explained, in the remainder of the book, which primarily focuses on Natalie. Born Keisha, she sheds that name along with her NW personality, remaking herself from scratch by sheer determination. The main problem is not unexpected. A personality created by determination is understandably brittle, and Natalie never feels she can relax. A personality created by willpower can continue only so long as that willpower continues to sustain it. This concept, repeated with other characters, is generally persuasive, and in this very well written book none of those born in NW ever really escape its pull. At the end of the book Natalie places a call to the police, disguising her voice as Keisha. But is Keisha the disguise, or Natalie?

Some of the characters in the book, including Frank and Annie merely serve as stereotypes of people born to privilege. They serve no purpose except as juxtapositions to the complex ambivalence felt by their lovers, Natalie and Felix. These characters are drawn too simplistically to really work. And there are odd tangents in the book, particularly the section on Felix, that are more distracting than illuminating. But overall these are minor quibbles. This is a well written and haunting book about two women struggling to be happy, content, fulfilled. They have created "successful" lives as envisioned back in NW as kids, but it turns out life isn't that simple.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Brainy problem potpourri 14 octobre 2012
Par Dr Agana - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
NW took Zadie Smith longer than usual and is, to quote her from the Telegraph, her "favourite by a long, long way." Not mine, but then it may be a matter of time for me, too.

The novel is so well distilled that the true taste of it unfolds in due course, after you're well into the story. What story, I wondered at first, this looks and sounds more like a purposefully-accidental, self-conscious collection of anecdotes, statements and snippets. Normally I'd slap the "lazy" label on such structure, but this is work. However choppy, a plot emerges and pulls in and out, akin to the interconnected movie lifelines in highly stylized chaos-classic Pulp Fiction, Amores Perros or Babel (not everyone's cuppa, granted). However sketchy, Smith's short strokes are a stunningly effective technique in drawing characters. Whatever haze or confusion there may be around either of them, her wit and smarts laser through to the core, leaving us with an "aha" effect or with recognition, uncomfortably so, for the lives these people lead are, while vastly different, not so great. There are problems with class, race, sexuality, addiction, identity and relationships all over the map, mostly contained in Smith's now part-time London neighborhood. Thematically, she might have been vulnerable to another reproach, namely that she pandered to national preoccupations (class- British; race- ditto, American, too; the rest, universal), if the problems weren't rendered so elegantly, so free of sentimentality, that, at the absolute least, she makes you THINK. It makes full sense, then, that a series of mini-chapters is delivered in a mock-scientific-paper tone, and is tragi-hilarious for it. Who can create an association between science and humor? Zadie Smith.

Her "ode" to home won't be mistaken as commissioned by a tourist agency, yet it is full of love, lyrics and longing.
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