I’m having some issues with the updates I’ve made to this blog/website, and I can’t get the pictures to show up in the right place. Anxious to get things looking just right (what are those white, empty rectangular boxes all about?), I decided to post a recent book review to see where it appears and if it has the correct photograph with it. Arrgh!
I was excited to find NW on the shelf of the local library and snatched it up right away. The back cover used terms like engaging, entertaining, and funny to describe the novel, so I knew I’d made a good choice. After reading it, I agree with the engaging adjective, but I’m not so sure about the entertaining one. And to me, there was nothing funny about it. Quite the opposite, NW was often sad.
While there are numerous richly drawn characters in the novel, the primary ones are Leah, Keisha (who later becomes Natalie), and Felix. Their spouses, lovers, and parents figure into the story in a major way too. Felix’s father was so well described and colorful that I felt as I knew him. What a character! Shar, Annie, Cheryl, Rodney, Devon, and a host of other fascinating characters add depth to the several stories that are told in NW.
The primary setting is a northwest corner of London where the main characters all began their lives. The two girls, childhood friends, get their educations in order to have better lives, and yet their plans don’t work out like the women intended. Leah feels guilty and works in a charity. She loves her husband Michel but cannot and will not agree to having children, something that Michel desperately wants. Nor does she bother to tell him about her secret birth control methods. Natalie becomes a successful lawyer with a handsome husband, two gorgeous children, and a beautiful home. But is she happy? No.
The book’s style and format are interesting and unique. Throughout much of the novel, Smith uses headings such as “Rabbit,” “And the scales fell from her eyes, “Personality Parenthesis,” and “African minimart endgame.” Plus, the dialogue is authentic and believable. When describing his future wife, Frank says “No time for fun-sista’s a slave to the wage,” and for some reason, that little phrase resounded with me.
While I learned quite a bit about diversity and about pockets of London I’d never really considered, I was also reminded that people everywhere live and die and struggle with others and with their own choices. Regardless of social class, education, or status, happily ever after is unlikely.
Can you ever go home again? Can you ever really leave? Are people all that different from each other? Those are just a few of the questions I’ve been pondering since finishing the book.