In Zadie Smith's latest novel, NW (The Penguin Press), setting is as much a character as the foursome of 30-somethings who float in and out of the narrative like poetry. That setting is northwest London, where Smith herself grew up. Here, she examines how race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and class interplay and communicate in urban neighborhoods that are filled with an odd mix of those who are affluent, those who are upwardly mobile, and those who are struggling to make ends meet (but never will). The story shifts perspectives from chapter to chapter, focusing on four characters — Leah, Felix, Natalie, and Nathan — as they navigate careers, marriage, and other weighty, adult topics. NW is challenging, adventurous, and ambitious in its scope. Smith, whose debut novel, White Teeth, instantly made a huge splash in the literary world, will be in town to talk lit as part of the U of M's English@Minnesota Writers Series.
Tue., Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m., 2012