Tag Archives: UK

NW, Zadie Smith (Penguin, 2013)

An experimental novel that is as unpredictable as the UK’s capital of diversity, inequality and loneliness

NW

Zadie Smith tells the stories of Nathan, Felix, Keisha (later Natalie) and Leah, all of whom, the author included, grew up in the North-West of London. Despite their shared origins, each character will go on to live different lives in this Dubliners-esque tale.

The word tale would actually be disrespectful to Smith’s prowess, as she proves with NW that she is in fact a master of realism. She clearly has an excellent understanding of human day-to-day life and behaviour. Nonetheless, in a novel whose aim seems to be to put a name and a face to the people we walk past every day on the tube, the bus and the streets of London, the characters are a little transparent and difficult to picture.

Despite this, the novel is fast-paced, mirroring life in the capital, and there is never a dull moment, with the author switching with ease between the points of view and perspectives of multiple characters. You will have to be on your toes reading NW, as it is sometimes easy to lose track and get lost.

In terms of genre, this one is very hard to define. Some would say it contains elements of post-modernism, but it is not as simple as that, and I have a feeling that the author would not like to be given a label. This is simply Zadie Smith; it is her genre, and it is fresh and revolutionary.

On the whole, NW is extremely thought-provoking novel that proves life – work, relationships, surviving – is difficult regardless of your situation. We do however witness a clear North-South divide in a novel that makes us question life as a whole.

Are we doomed by our backgrounds? Do our upbringings determine our futures? What choices do we really have in life? And is it the survival of the fittest in this concrete jungle?

3.5 Books

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One Day, David Nicholls (Hodder, 2010)

Featured in online newspaper ‘Arthur’s Daily Book News’
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One Day

Dex & Em; Em & Dex. The couple get together on 15th July in 1988, the night of their graduation. On the same date, over the next 20 years, we visit the two protagonists in a non-linear, and almost epistolary, narrative style, reminiscent of Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Dexter Mayhew, now a television presenter, lives a cavalier lifestyle and thrives upon a cocktail of sexual affairs, drugs and alcohol. As a reader, one of the most difficult decisions will be whether or not to feel sympathy for Dexter, who finds difficulty in dealing with the pressure of fame and the eventual fall into obscurity.

Hard-working Emma Morley battles confidence and self-belief in her dream of becoming a successful writer; meanwhile, she finds work as a primary school teacher and has an unfortunate string of hopeless boyfriends.

You will find yourself desperately hoping that Emma and Dexter will be together, a couple who are simply meant for each other. Nicholls’ writing expertise shines through in this masterpiece, which will tug at your heart strings and leave you with a tear in your eye. By the way, try to avoid watching the movie adaptation beforehand, in order to avoid spoiling the twists and turns of this emotionally turbulent novel.

Nicholls more than establishes himself as a master of romance fiction with One Day, simultaneously displaying his great sense of humour, which will have you laughing out loud. This is more than can be said for Ian, one of Emma’s boyfriends, and a relentlessly awful comedian.

I feel that One Day would have benefited from a more consistent use of the present tense; at times, the story lost its emphasis, whilst the flow of the normally effortless narrative was disrupted, as a result of it slipping into the past tense. Nonetheless, this is one of the finest romantic-comedy novels of the century, which, in the style of Nick Hornby, and High Fidelity in particular, also gives us an educative look into British life in the 90s. One Day – original, hilarious and heartbreaking – is destined to become a classic.

4.5 books

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Filed under Comedy, Romance