NW (novel)

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First UK edition cover
Author Zadie Smith
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Novel, experimental novel, tragicomedy
Publisher Hamish Hamilton, London
Publication date
27 August 2012
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 304 pp
ISBN 0-241-14414-0

NW is a 2012 novel by British author Zadie Smith. It takes its title from the NW postcode area in North-West London, the setting of the novel. The novel is experimental and follows four different characters living in London, shifting between first and third person, stream-of-consciousness, screenplay-style dialogue and other narrative techniques in an attempt to reflect the polyphonic nature of contemporary urban life. It was nominated for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction.

Plot summary[edit]

Set in the northwest of London, England, four locals—Leah Hanwell, Natalie (born Keisha) Blake, Felix Cooper, and Nathan Bogle—try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the working-class council estate where they grew up. While Leah has not managed to venture far from her childhood location, her best friend Natalie, now a successful, self-made barrister, lives in an affluent neighbourhood in a Victorian house. Despite their friendship and history, the two women find that they are very different from each other socio-economically. Meanwhile, a chance encounter brings Felix and Nathan together. Leah is the focus of a lower working class life in comparison to Natalie who represents the small higher working class. All four characters represent a piece of the lost generation struggling to ascend economically.[1]


The novel was widely praised by critics, and in particular by James Wood, who criticised Smith's early work for its tendency towards what he called hysterical realism. Wood included the novel in his "Best Books of 2012" and commented that "underneath the formal experimentation runs a steady, clear, realistic genius. Smith is a great urban realist... the best novel she has yet written." [2] Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Philip Hensher gave the novel five stars, describing it as "a joyous, optimistic, angry masterpiece, and no better English novel will be published this year, or, probably, next."[3] Award-winning novelist Anne Enright reviewed the book for the New York Times, arguing that "the result is that rare thing, a book that is radical and passionate and real."[4]


The novel was adapted into a 2016 television film by the BBC directed by Saul Dibb and written by Rachel Bennette,[5] starring Nikki Amuka-Bird and Phoebe Fox.[6] It was broadcast on BBC Two on 14 November 2016.[7][8]


  1. ^ Charles, Ron (2012-08-28). "'NW,' by Zadie Smith: A brilliant novel for the dedicated, attentive reader". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  2. ^ Wood, James, "Books of the Year", The New Yorker, 17 December 2012.
  3. ^ Hensher, Philip, "NW by Zadie Smith: review" , The Telegraph, 3 September 2012.
  4. ^ Enright, Anne, "Mind The Gap: 'NW' by Zadie Smith", The New York Times, 21 September 2012.
  5. ^ Wollaston, Sam. "NW review – Zadie Smith's London tale has never felt so relevant". Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  6. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha, "Amuka-Bird and Fox to star in NW adaptation", The Bookseller, 10 June 2016.
  7. ^ Meltzer, Tom, "NW star Nikki Amuka-Bird: 'Zadie is purposefully challenging the viewer'", The Guardian, 14 November 2016.
  8. ^ Lobb, Adrian, "NW Star Nikki Amuka-Bird Interview: 'Bursting through the glass ceiling can cause damage'", The Big Issue, 21 November 2016.

External links[edit]