Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time, as well as a novella, The Embassy of Cambodia, and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Partway through this charged onslaught of a novel, Smith's first in the seven years since On Beauty, a young tough refusing to put out a cigarette on a children's playground says, "You can't really chat to me. I'm Hackney, so," referring to the London borough. Although it gets a rise from his challenger, the comment clarifies Smith's story. Geography is destiny, and NW (North West London), with its housing projects and increasingly marginalized community, is the force shaping the narrative. Natalie Blake (nee Keisha) grew up there but has worked hard, tugged at her Afro-Caribbean roots, and become a lawyer; friend Leah, who also got a degree (as a state-school wild card) and is now "the only white girl on [Council's] Fund Distribution Team," doesn't want to move on. They circle warily, and Natalie eventually circles back, even as other characters-ambitious Felix and heartthrob Nathan, now in the gutter-wash through the you-are-there writing. VERDICT Told in numbered, run-on chapters that occasionally offer an aphorism or poetry, Smith's elliptical prose initially frustrates, then mesmerizes; it's a brilliant, daring way to deliver real lives-and, in the end, an emotional knockout. [See Prepub Alert, 3/5/12.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In the hands of Smith, Northwest London-the postcode area that gives her fourth novel its title-is more than just a setting: told in shifting perspectives of its lifelong residents, NW becomes a character in its own right. Working class, downtrodden, with an undercurrent of hopelessness and violence, this borough of London is home to Leah, Felix, Natalie, and Nathan, Smith's four focal characters, each one facing a conflict of identity. So many of the societal and class differences in NW are shown through nuances of voice, diction, and accent. And in this audio edition, narrators Don Gilet and Karen Bryson excel, capturing the subtleties of the many fluid dialectics in Northwest London spoken by immigrants and natives alike. The strong performances of and seamless interplay between Gilet and Bryson deftly capture the gritty day-to-day life of NW. A Penguin hardcover. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.