Book Review: NW by Zadie Smith

I have a confession to make: I have a bit of a girl crush on British author Zadie Smith. Ok, ok, it’s a massive girl crush.

Since reading her debut book White Teeth a few years ago, I’ve been interested in the life and work of this stunning, talented half-Jamaican woman from North West London.

London author Zadie Smith

London author Zadie Smith

I’ve just finished reading her latest book NW and it seems my girl crush is nearing love status (in a strictly non-creepy way, of course).

If you’re unfamiliar with Zadie, it’s about time you got on board. No, really, where have you been?!

Back in 2000 when White Teeth first hit stores her publisher hailed her “the new Salman Rushdie” and Time Magazine has since added the novel to their list of 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Not a bad feat, given that she wrote the book in her early twenties during her final year as an English literature student at Cambridge University.

Now 38, Zadie’s latest book NW gives an intimate and clever look at life in North West London, the area in which Zadie grew up in and continues to call home.


Having lived in North West London myself for a short time, I naturally found NW very interesting. The way Zadie reveals the cultural diversity, poverty, crime, friendships and lifestyles of residents of the fictional suburbs she creates based on North West London is impressive, and at times heart-breaking.

Zadie uses a variety of writing styles and North West London lingo to give her readers a raw insight into the life of her characters. While it was hard at times to keep track as the writing styles continually changed between chapters, for me this only added to the experience. It enabled me to become fully absorbed in the scenes Zadie was setting for the reader and the vivid and diverse lives and perspectives of the characters.

Zadie does well to link the characters and spark the reader’s interest in how each new character is going to be connected to one another.

It’s not an easy read by any means, but an enjoyable and somewhat educational one nonetheless.

A far cry from the London depicted in movies such as Notting Hill, Love Actually and Bridget Jones’s Diary, NW gives a true insight into the brutal daily life that sub-cultures in this region of London endure.

Shannon Crane is a journalist and communications professional who lives in (what she says is) the best city in the world, Melbourne. With her 30th birthday fast approaching, she is doing her best to balance her love of rooftop bars, travel, chocolate, red wine, shopping and more red wine with those more grown-up things like sticking to a budget, working, cleaning and planning for the future. It ain’t easy. You can follow all her adventures on her blog Sultanas and Vegemite

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Shannon Crane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *